It may not be immediately obvious to passersby, but something is happening on E. Gladys Avenue that is the very definition of the word community.
Heather Spinden and her son, Ben, are facing a crisis. Their home is in a state of bad disrepair and they lost their home insurance in July 2021 when their chimney collapsed. They both work full time even though they must walk to work. Heather is legally blind and has been employed at Walmart for the past 19 years. Ben, 34, has autism and works at Burger King. The two haven’t had a family vacation since 2012.
Their home repair needs are enormous. They need a new chimney, walkway, sidewalk, siding, roofing and a fresh coat of paint. They don’t have the money to even begin the daunting task of getting their home back in shape.
What they do have, however, are incredible and caring friends like Josh Ross, who has known the Spindens for years. He and Ben met in elementary school. Ross has enlisted the help of numerous businesses in the community and they’ve all stepped up.
“It’s moving,” said Ross. “It really is. I just had to call them.”
Standing outside his house on Wednesday, Ben said he and his mother have been touched by the outreach.
“We’re grateful to live in a community that will help us out in a time of need,” he said.
Heather Spinden bought the house at 273 E. Gladys Ave., in 2003. She was a caregiver to her parents until they passed away and since then she and Ben have worked hard to keep their home. Heather uses her Walmart income to pay for the mortgage and the bigger bills, while Ben helps out with the smaller ones.
“You got to do what you can to pay the bills,” said Heather.
Work has already begun on the Spindens’ home and property. Old trees have been removed, cracked concrete has been stripped out, the siding is coming down and work on a new irrigation system is under way – donated by Elmer’s Irrigation. Others who have donated to the cause include O So Kleen, C&C Construction, Costless Carpet as well as several contractors who are donating materials. The Spindens have also been able to get a temporary insurance policy on their home, thanks to friends.
The Academy Mortgage branches in Hermiston and Pendleton are working to secure volunteers to help with renovation needs, and have set up an account for donations which they will match up to $5,000.
But to make it all possible, in-kind donations are needed for building and landscaping materials as well as funds to pay for the renovation.
Ross said he hopes enough community members come forward to help out to pay for some new furniture, a new refrigerator and Walmart gift cards for groceries for the Spindens.
A week-long work party is planned for April 18-23 and Ross expects the Spindens to be in a newly-renovated home by the end of the final day.
Heather Spinden said the community’s generosity has been incredible.
“I’m honored and blessed and overwhelmed,” she said. “We’re so thankful.”