“I kind of know what it’s like to have people that you don’t know help you out!” so says Rob Hall of Graham Hill Flooring in Bridgnorth – one of the local companies who took up the challenge issued by the ‘DIY SOS’ team to help a family in Hopesay who, following a tragic bereavement, were facing a renovation nightmare.
Rob knows all about being positive in the face of adversity – his daughter Evelyn, who will be 3 in May, was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus among many other things. But as Rob says, “Since having her our whole outlook on life has changed, she’s made us realise just what’s important in life and doing things like DIY SOS are very important!”
The SOS DIY team came to Hopesay between 8th – 18th February to help a local family rebuild their home, and their lives. Firefighter Joe, Primary School Teacher Jess, and their daughter Lucy (now 7) moved from London to rural Shropshire in 2011. They dreamt of bringing up Lucy in the village where Jess had spent her summers as a child, and slowly began work renovating an old worker’s cottage into their dream home.
In April 2014 Jess came home from work one Friday, and went straight to bed feeling unwell. Tragically she deteriorated quickly and on arrival at hospital 3 days later was diagnosed with acute Leukaemia and Septicaemia. Jess’ condition was aggressive and within just two days of receiving her diagnosis, she sadly passed away.
Joe and Lucy were left to deal with her very sudden and tragic death, in a house that was half finished. On top of all this, just a few months before Jess’ death, Joe had been involved in a road accident at work leaving Joe with severe back injuries, and forcing him to leave his dream job with the fire service.
Joe struggled emotionally and mentally after Jess’ death but focussed on completing the house to make it into a home for Lucy. Unfortunately the build had to stop when they uncovered a 4ft-wide stream flowing underneath the living-room floor, the money had to then be spent on re-routing the stream. As a result and with Joe now out of work, they could no longer afford to finish the house and have been living in a tiny caravan in the garden since summer 2015.
The house and garden were in an un-liveable state, with no electricity or heating, no bathroom, kitchen or bedrooms, and with bare walls and flooring. Joe had reached the end of the line; he had lost almost everything in the last 18 months: his wife, their home, and his career, but daughter Lucy keeps him going. Joe desperately wants a new start in the house where they feel closest to Jess, as she is buried in the local village churchyard.
Rob takes up the story, “I’m was so proud to been able to help in the way that we did, having the resources to be able to donate the materials and our time. But more important it was humbling to see so many other people giving their time and energy to help to change someone’s life for the better – I kind of know what it’s like to have people that you don’t know help you out – with my daughter having her problems we have a lot of events to raise funds to buy things like wheelchairs and walkers etc. and people that we’ve never met before have turned up and donated lots of money to help Evelyn. That’s an overwhelming and humbling feeling, so how Joe was feeling on reveal day I can only imagine. I’m very glad we did it and I’d do it all again and again.”