By Richard Morris
Edinburg, Texas (CNN) Woodrow Reed has faced a lot of personal setbacks over the last several years but it was his latest challenge that tested the resolve of his community. Reed, a paraplegic from a medical complication, recently faced foreclosure of the mobile home he shared with his elderly mother. His mother couldn’t make the payments, he says, and the mortgage company refused to modify their loan.
Eventually, the home was foreclosed on but Reed still owned the land and with the help of friends, a temporary abode was provided for him: A tool shed.
He lived there for about three months until his home health care nurse, Adela Martinez, couldn’t stand to see him live in these conditions. She knew there had to be someone in the community who had the means to help. She contacted the local news station, KRGV-TV, and their story was broadcast seeking assistance from anyone who could provide a more humane living environment.
The news of Reed’s situation drew considerable attention and many members of the community were willing to help in all matters possible. In the meantime he had broken his leg and was admitted to the hospital. Through small, individual donations, several hundred dollars were collected for him to find a new place to live after being released. However, bad luck befell Reed again. A debit card for the account holding the donations was stolen during a break-in of Martinez’s car. The bank refunded the money but it was another local resident who played the true hero.
Estella Garza and her husband Sonny Fernandez had been debating for months what to do with her father’s house, which she had inherited after his recent death. With little interest from the real estate market, Estella listened to her heart and convinced her husband that the house could hold no monetary value to them. It was a home that she helped her dad build with his own hands. Now, it would become a home it would be for someone in need. They decided to find a family or someone who’d had lost their home and was without a place to live.
Garza, herself, says she knows Reeds story all too well: "I have lived a hard life, I have been homeless. I know what it is like to not have a place to go home to and go to sleep."
Two prayers were answered at once.
"Sir, are you still looking for a house?" Fernandez recalls asking during his phone call to Reed in the hospital. "Yes I am," Reed responded. Fernandez replied, "I believe your prayers have been answered. It ain’t much, but we are going to give you a house."
All this happened very quickly but Reed’s health has since delayed the process. Reed recently underwent surgery and remains hospitalized. Fernandez and his wife have yet to meet Reed but Garza has seen him on a follow up TV report. "When I saw him, I cried because he was struggling so much," says Garza, "I want him to be there for Thanksgiving, I want him to be able to have Thanksgiving inside the house."
Challenges remain because the house needs to be moved three miles from its current location to Reed’s property. The house also is in need of some TLC. Garza says the community has stepped up to assist in any way possible: "One lady’s husband is willing to do the floor. The restroom need some work… and he is disabled, so he will need a ramp… people are calling us out of the blue, people we don’t even know."
Edinburgh is largely a Latino community, a point that has always made Reed feel like a minority. However, this experience has shown him that good will and community involvement transcend ethnicity and skin color. "This is the biggest blessing I have ever had in my life, says Reed, "I was so surprised by this kindness in the valley."