Bill and Cathy West have a one story home off state route 36
between Wallback and Maysel. The home
has plenty of room for the couple and their two children. But there is one problem – a leaky roof that
threatens to destroy the house’s kitchen.
Four Charleston Catholic students and the HOPE project
coordinator, Bill Mehle, are installing an Irish green roof on the home this
week to make certain that doesn’t happen.
Cathy is grateful for more than one reason.
“My great grandpa actually bought this place in the 70s,”
Cathy said. “My grandma and grandpa got it and they raised me up in this
house. It’d crush me to see it ruined.”
Her husband Bill has a medical condition and finances are
tight. Much like a quarter of Clay County’s residents, Bill and Cathy live
below the poverty line.
“I’m not able to work anymore,” Bill said. “The shape my roof
is in, I would have lost everything I had.
Them putting a roof on our house is unbelievable how much it’s helped
us. It’s going to help preserve what
I’ve got. I’m not going to lose and go downhill. Now I’ll be able to save what
I’ve got. Whenever I become financially
stable again, I can keep working on it.”
The Wests had applied to be a part of the program last year but
were turned down. Mehle said there have
been wonderful things about coming to the same area for eight years straight,
but there are unfortunate side-effects.
“It takes a while for the folks in the county to trust a
group that’s coming in from the outside that we will do what we say we commit
ourselves to doing,” Mehle said. “The word has gotten out and sadly we’ve
gotten more applications every year than there are folks that can help out.”
Mehle says this year 55 families applied for the emergency
home repair HOPE offers – and 11 of them were accepted. Volunteers with HOPE have repaired 66 houses
since the program started in 2005. It
takes roughly $35,000 to make HOPE happen each year, with all of the money
coming from donations and grants. Bill
West just wishes he could join in on helping Mehle and company repair his
“I’m a certified welder,” West said. “I welded for about 16
years and actually made a good living at it.
About three years ago I started having really bad seizures and having
medical problems. Well, I finally got
the seizures under control and thought I’d be able to go back to work when I
started getting bad head aches everyday.
“If I don’t have the right medication, my head hurts so bad I
can’t even play with my kids. It breaks
my heart that I can’t even get up and play with them.”
Bill has had everything from cat scans to EEG’s done to try
to figure out what’s wrong with him, save for an MRI.
That’s something his medical card won’t pay for. It’s something that’s put Cathy in a
“In the beginning, I had a job that gave us income,” Cathy
said. “But they wouldn’t give him a medical card and no insurance and without
insurance, doctors won’t do anything.
So, finally I lost my unemployment, which gave us zero income. But I applied him for a medical card. But now I can’t go back to work or they’ll
take it away and then there’s not solution for him.”
Bill said, “With them (HOPE) helping us, it couldn’t have
come at a better time. I just wish there
was something I could do to repay them.
I’m just grateful for what they’ve done.”
Bill and Cathy aren’t the only ones. Janice and Brian Young live in Pisgah on the
opposite side of the Elk River from the county seat Clay. Their roof was also a major
“The roof was actually starting to leak and starting to fall
in when we moved in here,” Janice said. “The house is 100 years old and needs
in a facelift in a bad way.”
Janice is a cashier at the local Foodland and has done plenty
of renovations on the century old-home herself.
She’s put in new carpet in the living room and renovated one of the
bathrooms – but fixing the roof was always too expensive, even for HOPE which
turned down her application last year.
Sitting next to a fish tank in their living room, Brian said the family
is a little lucky.
“It’s unreal,” Brian said.
“Stuff like that don’t happen to us.
Usually we pay twice as much for something.” To which Janice added, “And
it lasts as half as long as it’s supposed to.”
Charleston Catholic High School senior Drew Cable is working on the
Young’s home. He said Janice has been
“She came out here,” Cable said. “And said, ‘Foremost, I just
want to thank you for being here, you’re work is really appreciated.’ That’s
just great to hear from someone who’s been touched.”
Touched might be an understatement. Janice and Brian were ecstatic when they
found out they’d be getting a new roof.
“The day I got the letter from the church saying they were
going to do it this week, I came running in here from the mailbox with the
letter in my hand jumping up and down like it was Christmas morning,” Janice
said. “It was like winning the lottery.”
Janice Young might not be Irish, but her eyes certainly do
smile over the green roof that protects her house and several other houses
around Clay County.
For a story focusing on Charleston Catholic students’
efforts with the project, click here.