LENDING A HELPING HAND … Homeowner Dena Stahler (left) and organizer Amber Stefanski.
By Jennifer Ellison
Local grandmother and Bryan resident Dena Stahler was faced with a shocking and disheartening revelation when she came home to find police standing on her doorstep. After a grueling third shift, all Dena wanted to do was come home and go to sleep. Instead, she found herself arrested. For what?
The paint on her house was chipping. Over a period of several months wherein Dena received certified mail regarding the state of her house, nobody told Dena that she needed to be present at the post office to physically sign for the specified mail before she could receive it.
From early 2017 to 2018, the failure to claim the mail meant a warrant was issued for her arrest. All because of the condition of the exterior of her home. By September 2020, an official criminal citation for failure to repair the structure was issued to Dena.
But due to the pandemic restricting mail efficiency, Dena never received these notices. In March 2021, Dena was arrested after she got off work for failure to appear.
Bryan resident Ms. Amber Stefanski decided she wasn’t going to take this sitting down and approached Dena with the intent to help her however she could. Amber couldn’t believe that this kind of treatment of a woman over the state of her house was truly something the morals of Bryan stood for.
Amber said, “These individuals with blighted projects already are overwhelmed with whatever the circumstances may be, it’s not the public’s business what the circumstances necessarily are, but if they’re already struggling as is, they aren’t going to know who to ask for help.”
Amber rallied supporters behind her with the plan of restoring the paint and other needs Dena’s house is in desperate want of. According to the courts, the cut-off date for the fresh paint is June 25th, which means Amber and her team of plucky volunteers have just over a month to raise enough money to complete the project and keep Dena from having to pay a $400 dollar fine and potentially spend time in jail.
Their priority to start with is the peeling and chipping paint to meet the requirements of the courts. However, they have their sights set on even grander goals once this one has been accomplished. Dena’s home needs new windows, a new roof, and a new porch, among other things.
Once the immediate danger has been dealt with, Amber plans to get Dena in contact with other agencies who will be more capable of handling the other projects.
On June 3rd, Montpelier’s Aqua Force Cleaning Services has stepped up and donated full services to power wash the chipped paint off the entire house on Wednesday May 26th so the team can get to work.
The paint job will be a monumental task, as the house needs one coat of primer and two coats of base paint, each of which will take several hours to complete and dry.
The project, which has been dubbed Bryan Main Street Home Project Community Work Day, is scheduled to begin on June 5th and Amber is calling to the local residents in the area to come and lend a hand or donate to the cause at the GoFundMe Amber has set up here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/bryan-main-street-home-community-work-day
Amber wants it made known that Dena did not approach her or anyone for help; she saw a woman in need of help and stepped up to offer it without waiting for a request.
The GoFundMe contains a list of items and materials the team is going to need, including paints, brushes, and possibly the need of food to feed the volunteers through what promises to be a hot and exhausting labor of love. If you want to volunteer or donate, contact Amber through the GoFundMe to see what needs to be done.
Amber said, “It should have never gotten to this point. We could’ve helped before it ever got to legal action. It should’ve never gotten this far.”
Amber has a lot in mind for what she wants to do for Dena, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is painting her home and satisfying the courts. With faith hope, and love, Amber is confident that the rest will fall into place if gently guided by caring hands across the region.
When people get together to do good, the feeling it incites is delightfully contagious and with so many people catching it, Dena’s house should look fresh and beautiful in no time at all.
Jennifer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org