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Offering a helping hand

Larry Wilson of Sioux Falls, S.D., was one of the volunteers to help repaint a woman’s house in Ellsworth. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Leslie Klein (left) and Linda Arends join the owner of a home in Ellsworth that volunteers helped to repair and repaint over the past three weekends. Submitted Photo2 / 2

ELLSWORTH — There are people in every community across this country who could use a hand — someone to help them mow their yard, shovel the snow, clean out the gutters or help clean up after a storm.

More often than not, however, it’s difficult for those most in need to ask for help. Pride gets in the way.

Well, for a group of neighbors in Ellsworth, they weren’t going to let an older woman’s pride get in the way of offering her a helping hand — many helping hands.

The woman, not wanting her name published, has watched helplessly in recent years as the paint on her home peeled away and areas of siding aged into disrepair.

Leslie Klein noticed it one day as she was surveying her own home and deciding it needed a new coat of paint before winter.

“I looked at my house and I thought it looked terrible,” Klein said. “Then I looked at her house. It wouldn’t survive another winter without being sealed up.”

Klein broached another neighbor, Kody Heideman, about the idea of bringing neighbors together to help complete minor repairs and paint the house, and he offered his support.

“I’ve never really done much like this before,” Heideman said, adding that he and Klein started talking about the project a month and a half ago.

“The window trim needed to be scraped and painted, some of the siding needed to be replaced and most of the house needed a good repainting,” Heideman said of the work required.

Together, Klein and Heideman sought people to volunteer the past three weekends — and some weeknights — to accomplish the tasks. Recruited were eight volunteers from Sioux Falls, S.D., and seven from the Ellsworth area, including Linda Arends of the Ellsworth Cafe, who prepared fresh corn on the cob for everyone on one of the weekends.

Klein’s employer, John Hackman Farmers Insurance of Sioux Falls, donated $100 for supplies, and volunteers also chipped in money for paint, rollers and brushes.

“I don’t think we’ve ever done anything quite that big before,” said Klein of bringing volunteers together. “Painting a house is a big venture — a big responsibility.”

As the guys replaced siding and everyone pitched in with paintbrushes, Klein said the homeowner was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

“Several times she was just in awe and in tears,” Klein noted. “She said, ‘I can’t believe anybody takes care of me.’”

The woman, a widow, just had hip surgery within the past year.

“She said it’s hard to believe that anyone would help anybody anymore,” added Heideman. “She’s just pretty thankful, I think.”

Klein and Heideman said the work brought the neighbors closer together.

“It really helps building community development,” Klein said. “You get to know them on a friend level instead of just a neighbor level. It was all in God’s plan.”

Heideman, who moved into the neighborhood about two and a half years ago, said the experience has helped him get to know his neighbors and “know that we’re all here to help each other from now on.”

“I figured it helps improve the neighborhood a little bit and get to know the neighbors a little more,” he shared. “I figured it’s always good to help someone out sometimes.”

“I want to see more communities come together and be brave and knock on that neighbor’s door and break that silence,” added Klein, saying she would like to see a program developed in their community where they raise money for a lift and plan to paint a house every summer.

“Hopefully, we can encourage everybody and get some more (work done),” she said.

“If I ever hear of anyone who might need help, I’d probably do it again for somebody,” Heideman added.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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