CARBONDALE - Bob and Becky Hutton have always worked hard, asked for little and taken delight in helping their family. They made financial sacrifices for years and never quite got around to making some much-needed repairs to their home off County Road 100, a few miles east of Carbondale.
They have lived in an anchored, double-wide mobile home on a nice piece of ground for more than 30 years. The home is immaculate and welcoming inside but had some issues with the 14 original, single-pane windows.
"The wind blows, and they would rattle," Bob Hutton said. The windows didn't sit right in the metal frames. Drafts allowed cold air to rush in. Ice ridges formed during winters.
"Some mornings it would be pretty cold," he said. "I'd put on a coat to build a fire."
They depend on a wood-burning stove for most of their heat.
When they weren't dealing with the cold of the Colorado winters, their septic system didn't work properly when the water table increased on their land in the spring and summer. They had to be extremely judicious with the water they used. Becky wouldn't allow help washing dishes after big family gatherings. She had a system dialed in to minimize water use. They also had to be quick with showers.
The Huttons, both 69, were perfect candidates for help from Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork Valley. The chapter established A Brush With Kindness, a home-repair program, in 2010 after receiving a $100,000 grant from part-time Carbondale resident Cia McKoy. When McKoy's mom passed away, she donated the funds from the estate with a request to help women in the Carbondale area.
Habitat for Humanity ran advertisements seeking homeowners it could assist. The criteria included homeownership, insurance coverage, being current on mortgage payments and property taxes, and a household income 60 percent below the area median.
A family member nominated the Huttons. Scott Gilbert, president of the Habitat for Humanity chapter, said it was an easy decision to provide assistance to them.
"They chose to help themselves last," he said. "They were always helping their family first."
The Huttons never would have asked for help for themselves, he noted. Bob Hutton maintained the fleet of vehicles at Colorado Rocky Mountain School for several years. He also worked in the Thompson Creek coal mine as a mechanic, welder and electrician. Becky Hutton was a cook for 13 years at Colorado Rocky Mountain School and now operates a cleaning service.
Habitat purchased new, highly efficient windows and enlisted volunteer labor to install them at the Hutton home in December 2010. The 14 windows were of various sizes, including some large picture windows. Stained wood frames replaced the old metal frames and made the perfect complement to the interior.
"It's really a whole new lease on life for them," Gilbert said.
Habitat also coordinated work to build a raised septic system, called a Wisconsin mound, that would eliminate the high-water-table troubles. Hutton family members did the excavation work and hauled material to help reduce the cost.
The Huttons said they were surprised and eternally grateful to receive aid from Habitat for Humanity. They would have chipped away and replaced a window or two per year, they said, but couldn't have tackled the expense of the new septic field.
All told, A Brush With Kindness funded 15 projects from Aspen Village to Silt before the fund was exhausted. Roughly 50 people were assisted, including 32 in the Carbondale senior housing complex, where skylights and windows were installed.
"So many of the jobs involved putting roofs over their heads," Gilbert said. A mobile home in Aspen Village, another in El Jebel and a couple of homes in Glenwood Springs, all occupied by elderly women or couples, were in dire need of roof repairs.
The Roaring Fork chapter of Habitat still does occasional special projects modeled after A Brush With Kindness. Rest assured, Gilbert said, the organization has numerous ways to assist people in need of aid in the Roaring Fork Valley. More information about the organization is available at www.habitatroaringfork.org.