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Veterans home comes together with helping hands

Rebuilding Together volunteers pitch in on home makeover
by: Jaime Valdez, Bill Mickley, a Navy veteran, sits in the living room of his home that is currently being restored by  Rebuilding Together. Mickley was swindled by a contractor who began demolition and then disappeared.

For years, William Mickley's house was torn apart.

The outside of the home was an eye-sore, with the siding torn off and bare insulation showing everywhere.

The street address was spray painted across the front of the house. Inside, wooden beams showed little more than the bare bones of walls and rooms.

'It was totally unlivable,' said Mickley, 88.

It's been this way since 2009, Mickley said, after a contractor swindled him out of thousands of dollars.

The contractor was hired to renovate the home that Mickley has owned for more than 30 years. Instead, they demolished most of the house and took off.

'They stole $58,000 and ran,' said Mickley's daughter Marlo.

Unable to live in the home, Mickley moved in with Marlo and her fiancé Kent Russell, who has been working to put the house back together ever since.

It's a process that's taken him years.

'I've been trying to get this place done so he can have his house back,' Russell said. 'I've been rebuilding this by myself. It's just me, myself and I.'

As Mickley's fulltime caregivers, Marlo and Kent can only put in a few hours on the house a day.

'We're here every day, three times a day working on it,' Kent said. 'We are in and out all day long.'

After years of slow progress, Mickley received a notice from his insurance company saying the house needed to have new siding installed by July, or his homeowners insurance would be canceled.

'We'd have ended up losing the house,' Russell said.

It was then that Marlo found out about Rebuilding Together Washington County, a nonprofit group based in Beaverton that helps low-income homeowners make repairs.

Marlo wrote to the group asking for help, and Joan Goldhammer, the group's executive director, answered.

'We do projects in the county all year round,' she said. 'We were really grateful to come out and help.'

But with limited funds, Goldhammer said she wasn't sure what Rebuilding Together would be able to do for the family.

'I didn't think we could do much, then I thought about the Heroes at Home grant program that Sears puts on,' she said. 'They give money to Rebuilding Together centers across the country to help veterans.'

Goldhammer and Mickley were able to receive the grant, and crews worked for weeks to reinstall new siding on the home.

They also reset all the windows, built a new front porch and have installed a new ramp in the back of the home for Mickley's wheelchair, free of charge.

Later this month, volunteers plan to paint the home.

'Out of the blue they stepped in,' Russell said. 'It was huge.'

What Russell expected would take him months to do alone, took a team of about a dozen volunteers a matter of days.

'What they do for people is huge,' Russell said. 'I would not have been able to do it without them.'

Russell and Marlo have spent years looking for help to finish the home, but have found little support.

'We don't have money to pay anybody, so it's hard to get people to come work for free,' said Marlo, who grew up in the house. 'We get people in to help, and they are good for a of couple hours, then we never see them again.'

Russell has found a few volunteers to put in a couple of hours, but stopped after volunteers began stealing from the site.

'We'd turn around and the lawnmower would be gone,' Russell said. 'To have Rebuilding Together come out and do it, it's just awesome. It means everything to us.'

Russell said the work Rebuilding Together has done helped shave more than three months off of the project.

'Them coming in and doing this has inspired me to work that much harder to get this done,' Russell said. 'I want him to be able to live his dream and come back home. He needs his dream.'

Once the home is completed, Russell, Mickley and Marlo plan to move back into the home. Russell is often in the house early, about 4 a.m., toiling for a few hours before work each day.

With Rebuilding Together's work complete, Russell said he can probably have the house ready to move back into within a year.

'It's slow,' he said, 'But it's coming together.'




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