Homer rallies to build house for constant volunteer
April 20th | Carey Restino
When Sandy Miller heard the community wanted to build her a real house, she burst into tears. There are many people more deserving, she said. Friends and family say that's the kind of generous person Miller is — with friends, family. She let a friend build a small cabin on her property and live there when they were down on their luck. She's been a caregiver and volunteer, worked for and volunteered with Hospice of Homer, and aided many in their final years.
"Her giving is a gift of mercy and compassion," said Rick Wise, one of those who has headed up the effort to build Miller a new home. "That's just who she is."
Wise said he's known Miller since childhood, watched her volunteer all over town, take care of elderly ailing family members and give to others all her life. All the while, a trailer she's lived in for decades continued to fall apart.
The roof leaked all over the place. It was drafty and horribly insulated. The bathtub was falling through the floor. And since it was built in the 1970s, there were asbestos issues.
"She doesn't need to live like that," said Joni Wise, Rick's daughter-in-law, who is helping with the project.
Joni Wise said every year, the Glacierview Baptist Church for whom Rick Wise is the pastor, sends a crew to Mexico to help build homes for the less fortunate.
"We said, 'Why are we traveling all this way when there are people here in this town that need the exact same thing,'" Joni Wise said.
Everyone agreed that they needed to help Miller get a home she could live comfortably in, Wise said. She owned her own land above the American Legion on East End Road. They started asking contractors if they would help.
Wise said the community amazed her. Within days she had an outpouring of people wanting to help, people who had never even met Sandy Miller, and many others who were aware of her generosity and wanted to give back. Very quickly, they assembled a team to tear down and haul away her trailer, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough allowed the project to dump the trailer's remains at the Homer Transfer Facility for free. Many contractors have already donated materials, and Spenard Builders Supply offered to sell the project materials at cost. Others have donated funds to get the project started, and an anonymous donor offered to buy all new appliances for Miller's new abode.
"It's amazing how generous people are," Wise said. "It was pretty impressive."
Work got underway this week on the pad and concrete pilings, with hopes that as the word gets out, the remaining thousands will be raised to frame in the home. Once they have the estimated $10,000 more needed to buy the materials to dry in the planned 24-by-30-foot two-bedroom home, many builders, electricians and contractors have offered to help with the interior work.
Rick Wise said while the church helped get the effort moving and set up accounts for the project, it quickly became a community-wide effort because Miller's friends span many sectors of the community.
"She has lots of friends," he said. "Just getting the word out the last two weeks, we've had a lot of people who said the are going to give to this."
Anyone wanting to help with the project can donate either through Spenard Builders Supply, where there is an account in Miller's name, or at First National Bank of Alaska, which also has an account set up for Miller. There will also be some work-party opportunities in the future, Wise said, as well as some fundraisers likely coming in the weeks to follow.
Wise said true to form, when Miller finally consented to let the project go forward, she immediately started thinking of others, like a family member who she is hoping will come live with her in the new space once it is done. While Miller continues her tradition of generosity, Wise said it is heartwarming to see the community support another who needs a little help.
"This is what happens in this community when we gather together," Miller said.