Anna Crawford wasn’t expecting such an outpouring of support from her community.
She spent most of the weekend responding to dozens of phone calls, emails and visits from people who wanted to help her and her husband, Bill, repaint their Lancaster, Ohio, home to keep them from going to jail.
“I wasn’t expecting all this,” Anna Crawford said. “It’s all turned out to be wonderful.”
The Crawfords received a notice from the city of Lancaster last year that they needed to repaint their 100-year-old home. Anna, 69, and Bill, 74, are Navy retirees living mostly on their military pensions.
The couple knew their house needed a lot of work. They’ve lived in the Victorian-era house on North Columbus Street for 35 years, after all.
But at their age, Anna Crawford said, if they can’t do the work, it often doesn’t get done because they generally can’t afford to pay someone else to do it.
When the Crawfords didn’t get the house painted in the city’s 30-day time frame, they were charged with first-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. Then, when Anna Crawford accidentally missed her court date in February, she was arrested for failing to appear and spent a night in the Fairfield County Jail.
The Crawfords have been trying to do as much of the work as they can since then. They decided the new house color would be “Civil War gray,” Anna Crawford said, “because that’s what this whole thing has felt like.” The couple has been taking advantage of the milder weather to scrape off the peeling blue paint.
That was until Gina Matos woke up early on Saturday and saw the Columbus Dispatch’s article about the Crawfords. Gina and her husband, Logan, own Turn Key Remodeling, which they started with the intention of helping people in need.
“I called Logan and said, ‘Where are you? You need to go to Columbus Street right now,’” said Gina Matos, who lives in the Fairfield County village of Thurston.
Logan Matos drove up and down the street until he found the Crawfords’ house. When Anna Crawford opened her door to find Logan offering to do the work for free, she was overwhelmed.
“It’s just astounding,” she said.
Gina and Logan Matos said they try to do as many community projects as they can. Every month, their company does one free renovation for a family in need.
Their business isn’t the only one helping out. They posted a request on Facebook for other volunteers and donations, asking that everyone gather at the Fairfield County Fairgrounds on Sunday: More than 100 showed up, Gina Matos said.
The project will be done over three weekends, and Gina Matos estimates that the materials alone will cost about $60,000, much of which is being donated.
Instead of paint, the Crawford house will get new siding so the couple won’t have to worry as much about upkeep. A local landscaping company is doing the yardwork. New windows, doors and a porch are going in, too.
One thing will stay the same, though, Anna Crawford said.
“The house is still going to be gray.”