The fact that Pumpkin Center residents Peggy and William Sheppard were living in a dilapidated mobile home was only one part of their predicament.
Peggy, 61, had been diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and underwent a double mastectomy. William, 67, a Vietnam veteran, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and coronary heart disease, which requires him to be on supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day.
They have no private health insurance, and their son, Jimmy, unable to work his carpentry job due to a work-related injury, lives with them, along with his 5- and 7-year-old sons.
In spite of these hardships, Peggy found reasons to be thankful.
“Our trailer was in serious need of repair, but we were still thankful because we had a roof over our heads and a bed to sleep in. It was our home, after all, and we weren’t sleeping under a bridge,” she said.
“The refrigerator worked and the washer and dryer worked, so even though we had no hot water in the kitchen, and there were holes in the floor that I patched with scraps of plywood, I wasn’t complaining. You learn to improvise. It was like going back to the good old days that people speak about.”
The Sheppards’ dire living conditions did not go unnoticed by residents of the community, in eastern Lincoln County.
In March, members of several local churches, including Amity Baptist Church, Faith Baptist Church, Macedonia Baptist Church, Friendly Chapel Baptist Church and Ivey Memorial Methodist Church, joined forces in a project to help the family.
“We were a family of Christians coming together doing God’s work to assist a local family in need,” said committee member Shirley Richard, 77. “Through community support and fundraising, we were determined to provide them with a livable home.”
The group held several fundraisers, and community members donated labor and materials but finally decided that the 40-year-old home the Sheppards had lived in since 1978 was beyond repair. Nelson Beam, one of the volunteers, found a used, singlewide trailer in need of renovations, and the group bought it for $5,500. They gutted the trailer and installed a new floor and new kitchen cabinets donated by a local builder. Volunteers also did electrical and plumbing work.
The group installed new, double-pane windows and a new heat pump, and the master bedroom and bathroom were modified to make them handicap-accessible, with substantial labor donated by a communitywide Young People’s Bible Study Group.
East Lincoln Christian Ministry in Denver and several local churches provided furnishings for the new home. The total cash outlay was approximately $20,000, volunteers said.
“If it hadn’t been for the wonderful people helping us around here, I don’t know what we would have done,” says Peggy. “I admit that I was reluctant to accept their help at first. I guess my pride got in the way. But I had to consider the rest of my family.”
Married 45 years, the couple depend on one another and manage to maintain their faith and optimism despite hard times.
“We’ve had rough patches, like other folks,” says Peggy, “but we get along good. We’ve just worked hard and raised our family, keeping a roof over our heads.”
“I think it was God’s way of saying you’ve got to appreciate that new home a bit more, so he put us through a bit of a rough patch.”