When Dorothy Mullins’ water pipe froze, Good Samaritans went to help thaw it out — and were shocked to find that her farmhouse didn’t have an indoor bathroom. So the community rallied together to build her one!
The Power of Love
Dorothy Mullins slid a log into the kitchen woodstove, then held the coffee pot under the tap and turned the handle. Nothing happened. “Pipe is frozen again,” the 66-year-old groaned. Dorothy and her partner, Damon, had spent decades eking out a living on the 42-acre farm outside Peterstown, West Virginia. Sadly, she’d lost Damon three years earlier and now lived alone in the 250-year-old farmhouse — cooking on the woodstove and drawing water from a pipe running from a nearby spring into her kitchen. But now it was frozen solid.
“Gonna buy electric pipe warming tape when my Social Security check comes,” she told Sandi Bowling, who runs the local food bank, when Dorothy stopped in that cold January day for some bottled water. “This is your lucky day,” Sandi said with a smile. “Pastor Becky just told me someone donated money to help folks like yourself with home repairs.” Dorothy had never been one to ask for help. But, without Damon, she had to admit, she sure could use some. “That would be wonderful,” she told Sandi.
A Ripple Effect of Heartfelt Help
Sandi reached out to Steve Boothe and his church friend, Fred Terry, and they headed out to Dorothy’s place. They de-iced the pipe then installed insulation to prevent it from freezing again. But to their dismay, when they turned on the faucet, icy cold water merely trickled out. Steve looked around for a water heater but couldn’t find one — and he didn’t see something else. “Where’s the bathroom?” he asked.
“My outhouse is out back about a hundred yards,” Dorothy said, and pointing to a large basin on the back porch, she told them, “That’s my bathtub.” Steve and Fred shared an astonished glance. Sure, their county was poor, but they had no idea there were people living without hot water or indoor plumbing. “We have to do something,” Steve and Fred agreed on the drive home. And as word spread of “Project Dorothy,” an outpouring of love flooded in to her and a plan took shape.
Community of love
Dorothy was shocked when Steve and Fred returned and told her they were going to not only replace her pipe but also build her a bathroom.
“I can’t believe you would do this for me,” she said, her voice choked with emotion and gratitude as volunteer carpenters, electricians and plumbers arrived to help. Their first goal was to install a reliable water supply. Kevin Fullen, owner of an excavating company, donated 500 feet of PVC to replace the old rusted pipe. But once installed, they discovered, the spring had dried up. Dorothy also needed a well. A well would cost thousands, but once again, the community opened their hearts. Churches dipped into their emergency funds. Their congregations also dug into their pockets, and well-digger Raymond Honaker didn’t charge a dime for his labor.
Meanwhile, two other contractors put in a septic system as others started construction on the bathroom. With no room inside, they marked out a section of porch outside the kitchen. Steve contacted a local family resource agency, and they issued a grant for supplies and fixtures. For weeks, after putting in long hours at their jobs, the volunteer crew headed to Dorothy’s house and worked hours more until, finally, the last nail was hammered in. Steve led Dorothy into her new bathroom. “It’s beautiful,” she beamed.
“Steve, Fred and the rest prove that the world is full of people ready to do what you never dreamed possible.”
And when Steve turned the sink tap to hot, Dorothy’s eyes welled as she poked a finger into the steaming stream. Later, she gathered soap and shampoo, and luxuriated in the first hot shower of her life.
Today, Dorothy still marvels at her “modern conveniences.” But it is the kindness and generosity of her community that mean the most to her. “I am lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful people,” Dorothy says. “Steve, Fred and the rest prove that the world is full of people ready to do what you never dreamed possible.”
Steve agrees. “People are eager to help — they just have to know they’re needed,” he says. “Once they know, it’s amazing what their love can do.”
3 easy ways to show love to senior neighbors!
- Drop off a hot meal. Next time you cook for your family, put together a freezer-safe container for your neighbor and take it to them to enjoy that night or later on. For recipe ideas, visit SixSistersStuff.com, click “Method” and then visit the “Freezer Meals” section for dishes like a pizza bake and lasagna that an older neighbor can reheat and enjoy!
- Create a boredom buster. Visit Word-Game-World.com and print games like crossword puzzles, word scrambles and word searches for free! Simply bind the pages together with a staple and drop the puzzle book off at your neighbor’s house for days of entertainment. Short on time? Order a large-print word game or puzzle book from Amazon (this one is only $3!) and have it delivered to their home!
- Become a pen pal. Engaging with a pen pal can be a fun way to create a connection. Write a letter to a neighbor, put it in a basket with stationery, a pen and envelopes, and ask them to write back! Or go to ReadyToCare.com, click “Become a Pen Pal” and join the pen pal program to befriend a senior states away.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.