BLOOMINGTON — When Susie Geraghty made a Facebook post last month asking for help painting the house her family was preparing to move into, she never expected to end up with a full home renovation.
But four weeks later, their new home on North Hinshaw Avenue in Bloomington has new flooring, new carpet, a new HVAC system, several coats of fresh paint, new railings, patched drywall, new furniture and a new bedroom in the works.
”It’s beyond anything we could have imagined happening,” Geraghty said.
More than 50 volunteers have spent the last four weeks working with local businesses fixing up the house, finally giving them the space they needed for the family that’s grown to 10 with the addition of a foster baby.
“The bigger house is something they’ve wanted as long as I’ve known them,” said Emily Taylor, the family’s licensing case worker with the Center for Youth and Family Solutions who worked with them during two previous fosters. “For a long time their love and willingness to take in those in need had just outgrown their space.”
Now with the new baby, three biological children, two adopted children, the kids’ grandmother and great-aunt under one roof, Susie and her husband Mark are grateful to have the community at St. Mary’s Catholic Church who are willing to help and support them.
“I always look for God’s signs,” Geraghty said, having just spent weeks in the hospital with the baby, who has extensive medical needs and mobility issues. “I had just posted that Facebook comment right before he became sick. It was like God said, ‘You’re not going to be able to do this yourself,’ and brought all these angels to swoop in and take over while we were totally stressed for 25 days or so.”
When Christine White, a State Farm employee who volunteers with the St. Mary’s youth group, responded to their call for help, she thought the youth group students could handle it.
“When we toured, we quickly realized this was way beyond our skill and our ability to do it alone,” White said.
So she called in reinforcements.
As part of State Farm’s 100 Acts of Good initiative, White raised more than $8,000 with current and retired State Farm employees and partnered with several local businesses.
It started with a “demo weekend,” and Dumpster Dan’s Rolloff donated a dumpster for volunteers to get rid of old carpet, a broken hot tub and other things that needed to be cleared away before the renovations could begin.
Patching holes in the walls was the next step, followed by several fresh coats of paint, donated by Sherwin Williams.
White asked BJ Chapman, an installer for Bratcher Heating and Air Conditioning in Bloomington and fellow St. Mary’s parishioner, to check out the HVAC system and he knew immediately the unit needed to be replaced.
“The furnace wasn’t bad but the air conditioner was terrible,” he said. “Knowing there were going to be that many (people living) in the house, I went straight to my boss and said, ‘Hey, is there anything we can do?’”
Bratcher worked with the HVAC manufacturer Lennox and its Feel the Love program, “and we knew by 9 o’clock that night that they would give us every bit of equipment that we needed to do it.”
In their off hours, Chapman and other installers set up the new system and stuck around to help with other needs, too.
“I’m here to do whatever they need from me,” Chapman said. “Being a parishioner of the church, there’s a lot of guys … that whatever you need, we’re here for you.”
Nicole Blakney, one of the volunteers who also works at State Farm and has kids at St. Mary’s, said in addition to taking in foster children, the Geraghty family has given back to the community in the more than 10 years they’ve been members of the church.
“Seeing them at church and seeing them volunteer, it makes you want to volunteer even more to help them get to a better place,” she said.
White said it’s been a multigenerational effort with entire families coming to help, and even preschoolers have picked up paintbrushes. With so many people involved, the house changes by the day.
“Who were the angels that were here today?” asked White in reaction to the improvements. “We really don’t even know because people don’t care about being recognized. They just come and spend their time and talent and treasure on this every day in different ways.”
As a family that’s used to passing down and sharing rather than buying new, Geraghty said, “it’s cool to have a community sharing with us.”
When everything is finished, the home will have seven bedrooms with space in the basement and garage converted into bedrooms to fit their large family.
“Every kid for the first time will have space, which they’ve never had,” White said. “That was really important to us as moms and dads, to give back to the kids, too, because they’re part of the foster unit, too, right?”
And kids are excited that was made a priority.
“It will be good for them to all have their own space to just be a kid and be individuals, and not have to worry about turning their music down because someone in their same room doesn’t like that music or whatnot,” Geraghty said.
With so many volunteers reaching out to their own networks, White estimates more than 10 local businesses have helped with the renovation, making donations and keeping costs low.
“It was amazing,” said Doug Callahan, a Bratcher installer. “Reaching out to everyone and they were all like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it; we’ll donate this and donate this.’ I was just like holy cow, man. This is amazing.”
The businesses include Bam Bam Construction, Window World, Crawford’s Corner Pub, This Is It Furniture, McDonald Supply and Molly Maids, as well as the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 99.
“There are not enough words of gratitude for everything that this church has done and this group has done for this family,” Taylor said. “Foster care is so hard. … They’re doing it because their heart is in it and it was what they were called to do.
“This is the third time they’re taking in a child that was not biologically their own, and so just having that support from their community, having so many people step up and say that we want to help, we want to be part of this — it’s insane.”
The renovations are still in progress, but Geraghty said they will start moving some things to the house this weekend and are preparing to really begin the moving process next weekend.
“It’s absolutely amazing. We’re all excited,” she said. “It’s a big transition, but it’s a good one.”
Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.