Giving Back to Those Who Have Served:
From the moment he left high school, Tony Spicer served his community. First, as a Marine, successfully navigating the rigors of Parris Island, one of the most difficult, demanding, and well-known boot camps in the world. Then, after completing service in the Marine Corps, he became a pastor and traveled to speak at churches all along the East Coast before also doing mission work in Italy, where he has ancestral roots. But misfortune would find Tony and make his life more challenging than he ever imagined. With his body and his home seemingly falling apart, he reached out for help and found that the community was willing to serve him and lift him up when he needed it most.
As the floodwaters rose, Tony Spicer feared the worst. The home he’d provided for his family for 20 years was now sitting in the middle of what looked like a lake. It was one of the worst floods in Breathitt County’s history, and the water had pooled under his home, ruining the flooring. With the carpets saturated in muddy, filthy water, Tony did the only thing he knew to do: he reached out.
The damage to his home was the latest disaster in a series of unfortunate events. It all started 10 years ago, when an automobile accident left him with severe injuries to his neck and back. At that point, he could no longer travel to preach or teach martial arts, which he’d done for years, and for a former Marine, becoming a disabled Veteran was a huge blow to the system. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Tony was diagnosed with diabetes and Stage 5 kidney failure three years ago. He’s been on dialysis ever since.
“It’s the biggest disappointment of my life,” Tony said, sitting at his kitchen table. “I can’t do anything like I used to. Now I have my days, but I go in there (to dialysis) like it’s just another day in my routine. I know if I don’t do it, I’m a dead man.”
Due to the condition of Tony’s kidneys and the fact that he’s highly vulnerable to the effects of environmental toxins, the residue left inside his home by the flood was a significant threat to his health and possibly life.
After filling out an application for assistance, the Housing Development Alliance (HDA) surveyed his home and realized the dire nature of Tony’s circumstances. With (at that time) the impending government shutdown threatening to delay HDA’s financial ability to meet the need, funding from HDA’s funders and donors allowed the agency to move up Tony’s project and go to work within days.
HDA’s crew removed the 20-year-old, heavily damaged carpet from the home and replaced it with laminate wood flooring. Workers also installed a ramp at the back of Tony’s house so that he could get in and out more easily for his biweekly trips to dialysis.
These home improvements have drastically improved his quality of life, and when he found out about the generosity of HDA’s funders and donors, which made the repairs possible, he was again overcome with gratitude for the kindness of strangers.
“We love it!” he said, gesturing to his wife, Kerri. “And the two crews who came here were good people, easy to talk to, and very professional.”
“The flooring is high quality, and hey, my wife doesn’t have to vacuum,” Tony joked.
With the carpet gone, the environment is safer, and when Tony needs his wheelchair, he can travel through his home much more easily.
“We also have a fireplace in one of the rooms, so the wood flooring is better than carpet in there. In the winter, even with the guard, sparks would still fly out,” Tony explained. “There used to be burn marks in the carpet. The new flooring looks so good in that room!”
At not even 60 years old, Tony’s life has had to change completely, but his experience with HDA and the opportunities created by HDA’s Home Repair Program have lifted his spirits tremendously.