Darlene Roberts of Triton was living in a house that was in desperate need of repair.
The windows needed replacing, the doors needed fixing, the walls needed attention, and the roof leaked whenever it rained too hard outside.
The problem, though, is that Darlene wasn’t prepared to take care of any of it. Why? She just didn’t have the money.
“I couldn’t do it,” she said. “I just couldn’t afford to put the attention that I needed to in the repairs, and after so many years, it just all caught up and got worse and worse.”
Roberts has lived in Triton all of her life. She works at the local fish plant, and says her income didn’t allow her to do everything she needed to do. However, it was getting obvious that Darlene Roberts’ house was getting past the point of no return. In fact, it had gotten to the point where a group of people from the town she lived in decided they had to do something to help.
Don Budgell is the chairperson of the Concerned Citizens Committee (CCC)
Budgell says the committee was formed in the town back in the late ’80s to help people in the town of Triton who needed assistance with major projects that they otherwise couldn’t afford to do on their own.
A few years ago, the committee also helped a man in the community who was paralyzed do some repairs to his home, and get a new stove that allowed him more freedom.
Budgell says he had heard about Darlene’s living conditions, and decided to pay her a visit one day. His intention was to look at the roof, which he knew would have been a priority, and needed to be fixed. However, when he arrived, he discovered it wasn’t just a leaky roof that was cause for concern.
“I went down and saw that something really had to be done,” he said. “The house was in rough shape. We needed to help her, no doubt it about it. It had already gone too far.”
He figured it was obviously necessary to call the committee back together and start talking about ways to help the woman who was in such need of it. But before that, there was a little groundwork that needed to be done first.
Budgell says he got on the phone and called some key business people he had connections with and started telling them about Darlene’s situation. He wasn’t shocked when he heard their answers back encouraging him to go for it.
“I called some people I knew could help,” he explained. “From there they told me that they agreed something had to be done, and they offered to help any way they could.”
That night, when Budgell attended the meeting for the CCC, he had already raised $28,000 towards the project – even though they weren’t even sure what it was yet.
“It was a great start, because we knew then that we had the support of people that we needed it from, so we had somewhere to start.”
It was determined that fixing and repairing the house Darlene Roberts was living in just wasn’t feasible. It was much better just to build her a new house.
“I was hesitant when they told me,” said Roberts. “I’m not used to stuff like that. I’m not used to receiving charity.” But she says after some thought and persuasion, she realized that what these people were offering wasn’t charity, any more than it was just some neighbors who wanted to help out. So she agreed.
From there, Budgell says they canvassed the town of just over 1200 people and started collecting donations. Over $14,000 dollars came in from the community from going door to door, he says, a sign of utmost generosity for one of their own.
After some more businesses came on board, Budgell says they raised $60,000 dollars and their project was only a week and a half old.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “The generosity of people – people from the town, and people from away. People donated money, businesses donated material and labor that didn’t even know who Darlene was. It really is incredible.”
After the money was raised, construction began on “The Darlene Project.” After a month and a half, the house was built – just in time for Christmas.
“We didn’t have to pay one penny for labor,” explained Budgell. “Everything was donated, out of the generosity of people who wanted to help someone in need.”
The grand opening of Darlene Roberts’ new home happened in early December with an open house complete with a Christmas tree, and plenty of food.
Budgell says the committee has enough money left over from construction that they’re even paying the insurance on the house for the next seven years, and offsetting her light bill by $75.00 a month.
To put the icing on the cake of the project, though, is the fact that the site picked for the new house is the location of the former house Darlene Roberts grew up in, which belonged to her parents.
“Things have come full circle for me,” she said. “I still find it hard to take in sometimes. It’s times like this you really find out how amazing people are.”