JOHNSON COUNTY (CBS 11 NEWS) – Betsy Cathey and her husband are described by friends as giving, caring and always willing to help others. But the couple had a secret.
People could tell from the outside their house was in disrepair. The porch had collapsed and the back wall had rotted out from repeated flooding during rain storms — but there was more than that. Up until a few weeks ago the inside of the home was something the owners were so embarrassed by, they wouldn’t even invite their family in.
“It’s bad when mom is saying ‘I’m driving from Azle to Alvarado, let’s go shopping, or let’s go get something to eat’,” Betsy Cathey said. “She pulls into the driveway. ‘I need to go to the bathroom.’ ‘Mom? How bad do you have to go?'”
A couple of weeks ago, Cathey’s house was a skeleton of a home. There was no insulation or sheet rock on the walls, no closets and open attic space over their heads.
A contractor friend had begun construction to add desperately needed room to their 900 square foot home. But, the repairman had to leave the job — that was in 2006. The Cathey’s thought they could finish out the interior themselves.
“And then, life just happens you know,” Betsy Cathey said, fighting back tears. “A loss of income. My husband had a heart attack. You know, little things. Well, big things. Big things.”
In the winter, the family huddled around a propane tank and heater. In the summer, they put fans directly on them as they slept. They moved everything out of storage to save money. Betsy said that and the fact clothing was strewn everywhere because of a lack of closet space, made it appear they were hoarders.
“At some point you just shut down,” Betsy said. “You stop trying to do it because its bigger than you are. To us its not really painful. Its painful to tell people. Its not painful to have to work around.”
But finally she asked one of her best friends for help.
Family friend Charla Corn recalled, “I was like ‘whoa!’ what do you need? I didn’t realize this was going to be like a $20,000 project.”
“She’s heard many times before how I want to finish my house,” Betsey said. “But she didn’t understand because I’d never let her in the door.”
Corn found a contractor, Posse Contracting, who volunteered to do an extreme home makeover for the cost of supplies. “I told him to go ahead. We’ll figure out how to pay for it somehow.”
Construction crews braved ice storms to try to build the Cathey’s a home they could be proud of before Christmas. Within days of the first crews arriving, Betsey was suddenly proud of her home.
“She kept sending me pictures and texting pictures,” Corn said. “She was like, ‘You won’t believe what they did today!’ and ‘Oh my gosh! Look what they did today!'”
Friday, Betsey walked through her newly completed home with tears of joy in her eyes. “Isn’t it amazing?” she asked gleefully. “I love my bathroom!”
The contractor did more than just hang the sheet rock. They painted the walls and added trim. Betsey had asked for a single light in large bathroom. They gave her three and a vanity and neatly tiled the walls of her shower. And they put together a home life that had been disrupted for seven years.
Now, Betsey will ask her family to please come for the holidays. “I want to move in so we can have Christmas,” she said. “We already have plans. My mom and my sister are coming down for breakfast Christmas morning. And I’m cooking! It will be the first time I’ll be able to entertain here in a long time.”
Corn said the goal now, to finish the Christmas miracle, is to raise the money to finish paying the contractor who delivered them a brand new home.
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