Jul 06 2022

Extreme Home Makeover, Hermiston

Other Stories of Impact

How one community came together to change the lives of a local family.

The true meaning of a neighbor

It all started with a single act of kindness: Josh Ross decided he was going to repaint the Spinden family’s home.

Heather Spinden lives with her son, Ben, who is autistic. Not only does Heather leave her house at 3:10 every morning to walk to work, she is also Ben’s sole caregiver. 

“I’ve not heard a single negative thing about Heather and her family,” Josh said. “She’s just such a kind soul and a caretaker.”

Heather had lived in the same home in Hermiston, Oregon, for the past 18 or so years. When Josh, who works as a contractor, saw the state of the house, he knew something had to be done, and it had to be done quickly — things had gotten so bad that Heather was about to be dropped by her insurance company. She might even lose the house altogether. 

“When you think about it, they work every day,” Josh said. “They just don’t have enough money to survive past their bills.”

When the ball starts rolling…

Holly Woods, Josh’s girlfriend and an Academy Mortgage Loan Officer, soon heard about the Spindens’ situation, and she decided to get involved, too. 

“What do you do with a home when it’s falling apart around you?” Holly wondered.

Josh’s original idea of repainting the Spindens’ home had grown to include fixing the siding and some electrical work, but Holly knew the job was much bigger. 

Holly started working her contacts in the local community, asking neighbors and businesses if they would help. She also contacted Academy Mortgage’s Home Office for additional financial support, which they were more than happy to offer. 

“All of the sudden, the ball started rolling faster and faster, and then it turned into, like, the abominable snowman and it just created an avalanche,” Holly said.

Academy Mortgage Corporation
"Their home is a constant reminder, and it creates a sense of ownership: I was part of that. People drive by the house or see her in the community, and it creates this amazing feeling of pride."
Chad Booth

Employee Experience Manager

Community pride, personal hope

Pretty soon, everyone got involved, from neighbors to other local contractors to big, national companies like Home Depot. Hundreds of volunteers worked long hours painting, caulking, putting on a new roof, hauling in new appliances and furniture, and doing whatever else they could to help. A new lawn was rolled out, flowers were planted, and a backyard play set for Heather’s grandkids was installed. 

“Once the word’s out, everybody is talking to their neighbors, and everybody knows everybody, and people want to help,” Holly said.

And when the big day arrived, and Heather and Ben opened their eyes and saw their completely transformed home, they reacted with tears of joy.

“There’s still a lot of hope out there for others,” Heather said. “I still hope.”