Volunteers grab hammers for 'Extreme Home Repair'

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COLLEGE PLACE — It’s hard to picture a happier face than Dale Visger’s.

At 83, retired from a career of teaching the residential construction program at Walla Walla College, he can’t wait to get his hands dirty fixing other people’s problems. The badder, the better.

Visger, along with Village Adventist Church, is firing up “Extreme Home Repair,” a project modeled after fix-it-up reality TV shows. Like those, the local effort will come with no strings attached, just a gift of love and act of kindness, he explained.

His church has committed $20,000 for seed money and an army of volunteers, “ready to step up,” Visger said, his smile broad. “And suppliers already are interested in donating materials or discounts.”

The plan is to accept applications from area families who, through no fault of their own, find themselves owning a home needing a big repair job.

Candidates for the extreme help will already be getting some kind of social-service help, have healthy lifestyles and, hopefully, have kids running around. With children experiencing the outpouring of community love, the better the chance they will grow up to spread the message themselves, Visger believes.

The chosen families — one a year, for now — will have to move out temporarily. Then, in a week to 10 days, return home to shiny and fixed, perhaps including new appliances and furniture.

Visger knows about “fixed,” and for bigger things than new wiring in walls or a furnace that won’t function.

His own extreme repair began with a heart attack in 1994, when doctors assured him he should be as close to dead as a living man can be. But the health disaster left him, instead, with “more energy than I deserve,” Visger said. “I want to make use of the health I’ve been given.”

In 2009, his heart took another kind of hit when Ruth Visger, his wife of nearly 60 years, died.

His doctor had given him something to help him sleep, Dale recalled, but on the second night of being widowed he awoke after 45 minutes. “I was so tense and my heartbeat was very irregular.”

He wouldn’t mind coming home, Visger said he told God. “If this is my time to go, it’s all right. But if you have something for me to do, grant me the peace that passes all understanding.”

In that moment, Visger felt as if he had been covered with a warm blanket, “from head to toe. And my heart never beat more regularly.” He returned to sleep only after expressing his gratitude and asking how best to proceed, he said.

The College Place resident was moved to help others get through the dark valley of loss, and began a support ministry at SonBridge Community Center. God blessed him with Evelyn, a widow who had been married 57 years and was seeking the company of others on the same journey.

Within the year they were married, Visger said with a smile.

There was nothing to do with their brand new joy than to spread it to others, he added.

One of his former students had already laid out the blueprint of how. The Rev. Mike Dauncey pastors Aldergrove Adventist Church in British Columbia. His church has been repairing people’s homes in “Extreme Home Makeover” mode for a decade now.

“Just like the show, but on a local level,” Dauncey said.

It starts with a $15,000 drop in a bucket that cashes in at a street value of $250,000 or so, once free labor and more is added up.

Every year Aldergrove funds the program, which comes under its “Acts of Kindness” ministry, with a big golf tournament. The event raises $50,000 or more, Dauncey said. “That is how we are able to fund this ... we can’t afford for our congregation to pay.”

The effect on the community is where those donations really pay off, bringing forth an attitude of always seeking ways to help others, he added. “People really love it.”

Visger is already seeing evidence that others here find the idea appealing. Once he began planning how things would work, he learned each step could be held up in the permitting process. A visit to the building inspector in College Place, however, gave Visger the assurance he needed. “He said he would be sure we didn’t have problems.”

It was affirmation he was headed in the right direction. Too, another Walla Walla University alumni, who now owns a local construction company, has caught the fever, and there is no doubt in Visger’s heart the ministry will be contagious.

He hopes to put legs on his prayers by August. Before that, the “Extreme Home Repair” crew will accept applications for its first family and its needy home.

It can’t happen soon enough, he said. “There are people out there hurting that need help. And one house a year is not much compared to those who need it.”

For more information,call Visger at 525-7256.

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