Three Arch Bay comes collectively in kindness

More than 50 residents support sick neighbors

Three Arch Bay residents bring newly upholstered chairs to Tim’s home. photo submitted

Nine years ago, Jake and Rene Hiemstra became residents of Three Arch Bay and neighbors to 68-year-old Tim, who, blind and in a wheelchair, lived a private, solitary life, rarely leaving his home.

Over the years, the Hiemstras slowly gained Tim’s trust, who was reluctant to ask or accept help.

Aside from the occasional “hello” and food deliveries, the Hiemstras wanted to help Tim on an even deeper level, but offers were always closed.

Rene Hiemstra and Arlene Merrill take a break from cleaning the inside of their neighbor’s house. photo submitted

“We brought him food and I asked him several times, ‘Can I clean your house?’ The answer was always ‘no’ because of course he was embarrassed,” said Rene Hiemstra.

Then Tim was recently hospitalized after complications from diabetes.

“I thought ‘what the hell’, I’ll ask him again,” Hiemstra said.

Which finally brought her the hoped-for “yes”.

While Tim was in the hospital, Hiemstra began the monumental task of clearing out his house to begin the cleaning process. Their work piqued the curiosity of other neighbors, and soon most of the Three Arch Bay community was involved.

“One at a time. People were curious because there’s no movement in this house,” Hiemstra said. “Many thought it was abandoned. Word got around that Jake and I cleaned my neighbor’s house and helped him out And it went like wildfire from there. As a community, we raised over $24,000 to help with repairs. Our hearts were overwhelmed. Money, time, labor, talent, cleaning and many various craft donations came together without hesitation.”

Neighbors simply asked the question: “What do you need?” And as they got deeper into the house, the needs were far greater than they had anticipated.

Over the next six weeks, the neighbors painted his house and fixed the heating. The Glass Company replaced broken windows, repaired electrical wiring, and donated furniture, carpets, microwaves, a bed, and linens.

Skip Hellewell and his daughter Brooke Reynolds help out with house repairs. photo submitted

Volunteers swept his chimney, a plumber installed a disabled toilet and checked the pipes; the landscaping was even finished. People donated plants and flowers. All closets have been cleaned and organized. When Tim came back from the hospital, his house had been turned into a home.

“I found through this whole process that there are so many good people out there,” Hiemstra said. “They just don’t know where to start and how to use it. Everyone came to me and offered to help, so I said, ‘Whatever you have to give, whatever talents you have, whatever you want, we can use you.’ I didn’t turn down any help.”

Tim had no heating in his house. Windows were broken. Now he enjoys sitting by his fireplace, which has been out of use for more than 35 years, and a donated Christmas tree lit outside his bedroom door.

Now Tim has home health care and a retired social worker who lives in the community and helps him. Hiemstra washes his clothes once a week, neighbors bring food and stock his fridge regularly, and with the money raised, Hiemstra’s housekeeper thoroughly cleans his apartment once a month.

“He loves the fireplace,” Hiemstra said. “Loves it. The house just needed a little maintenance because it hadn’t been cleaned or touched in 35 years, so you can only imagine. But now it’s a little dollhouse. Now we sit in the living room and talk to it. Before “He didn’t even let us in the front door. It’s beautiful. It really changed him. I think Skip Hellewell put it best: “In the history of Three Arch, this will go down in history as a miracle that the community brought together. It’s exactly what we needed at that point.’ I said, ‘Wow, I never expected that.’”

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