Walking around the East Austin home, Gabriel Trinidad could see years’ worth of electrical problems that the Hernandez family couldn’t afford to fix.
Faulty switches. Outdated outlets. Broken light fixtures in the living room and one of the bathrooms.
Debbie Hernandez had even covered a light switch in a spare bedroom with packing tape because accidentally turning it on would send sparks flying from the hole in the ceiling where a fan used to hang.
Fixing these problems would easily run $2,500 — but Lighting Inc. was so moved by the Hernandez family’s story that the light fixture company has offered to do the work for free.
“It’s one thing to give money to a project or cause, but it’s a blessing for our team to be able to use their skills and resources to give back to our community,” said Trinidad, general manager of Lighting Inc.
The Hernandez family’s story, featured as part of the Statesman’s Season for Caring program, began with Manuel Hernandez surprising his wife, Olivia R. Hernandez, with the keys to this Windsor Park home on her birthday 52 years ago. Manuel added a garage and the entire second story with his own hands, and the couple raised their five children here. Manuel made sure the home was paid off before cancer took him in 2001.
“I love the idea of Lighting Inc. helping keep Mr. Hernandez’s birthday gift and promise to his wife alive,” Trinidad said.
Olivia, now 82, still lives in the home with middle daughter Debbie, 61. The women scrape by on Olivia’s Social Security benefits and Debbie’s disability check, as the daughter has advanced arthritis and other health conditions. After they pay for groceries, utilities and other necessities, little money is left for home repairs.
The Statesman’s Season for Caring program helps hundreds of families each year through local nonprofit agencies. The Hernandez family was nominated by Interfaith Action of Central Texas’ Hands on Housing program, which helps repair the homes of seniors and people with disabilities living in deep poverty.
Read more: Austin widow watches home husband provided fall into disrepair | Season for Caring
Among the electrical upgrades pledged by Lighting Inc., crews plan to replace the low-wattage light above the kitchen sink with a brighter fixture closer to the center of the room, illuminating everything.
“It’s a big, big blessing to have light everywhere,” Debbie said, referring both to the promise of high-wattage bulbs and the spirit of generosity lifting her family this holiday season.
Lighting Inc. is looking for a partner to help with other necessary work, including updating the home’s three electrical panels and, if possible, adding outlets to two bathrooms that have none.
“It’s going to be that big of a job,” Trinidad explained.
Learn more: 12 families featured in the 25th Season for Caring program. Here’s how you can help.
Any donated work frees up Season for Caring money to help with other home repairs. The most pressing one at the Hernandez home: finding and fixing the leak in a sewer line somewhere beneath the house. For that, the Hernandezes need a plumbing company to donate its services.
Other repairs on the family’s wish list include new bathroom floors, kitchen cabinets and backsplashes, new flooring, repairing cracks in the drywall, replacing damaged siding, interior and exterior painting, and weatherization services to reduce utility bills.
Tim Beckham, a contractor from Bastrop who has years of experience in making homes more accessible, has also reached out to IACT.
“I still enjoy working and helping people,” he said.
He understands what it’s like to have difficulty moving around your own house. He has had a hip replacement and temporary paralysis and is recovering from foot surgery. He also grew up with a brother with muscular dystrophy.
Once he’s back on his feet in January, he plans to meet with IACT to see what he can do to add ramps and a railing to the staircase where Olivia fell down a few years ago.
The Hernandezes also need a new motor for their vehicle or a gently used car, gas gift cards, and gift cards to buy presents for grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
To find out more about the Hernandez family or to give an item on their wish list, contact Interfaith Action of Central Texas at 512-386-9145 or interfaithtexas.org.
Other Season for Caring recipients who need help with home repairs include:
Betty Patina-Trujillo, 48, who has multiple sclerosis and needs a home organizer. Wonders & Worries, 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org.
Bonnie Yett, 58, who lost both her husband and her daughter to a stroke this year. She needs help with home repairs and yard work. Meals on Wheels Central Texas, 512-476-6325, mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org
The Statesman will be sharing the stories of all 12 Season for Caring families throughout the holiday season. Find more stories and information at statesman.com/seasonforcaring. You can donate online or use the coupon on Page 2B. Now through Dec. 25, all monetary donations will be matched up to $500,000 by the Sheth family.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Season for Caring family in East Austin to get help with home repairs