"It seems kind of strange to be asking somebody for help," Debra Simpson told the American-Statesman in October after finding out that she and her husband, Charles, had been selected for Season for Caring. "I may be in a wheelchair, and I may not be able to walk right now, but I still have a home and family, and there's people that don't even have that. I consider myself one of the lucky ones."
The Simpsons, who are 67 and 77, are living in a mobile home on the Travis County/Bastrop County line that was ravaged by floodwaters on Halloween 2015. Today, the wreckage is still visible in the patchwork wooden floors that were soaked by a foot of water and mud. The flooding left many of the electrical outlets not working. They also had plumbing issues, and they needed new flooring.
"You either got to pay the bills or put down new floors," said daughter Rebecca Simpson, who comes to check on them daily and help care for her father, who is receiving hospice care for heart failure.
Many of the things they needed are beginning to happen through donations to Season for Caring. Each year, the Statesman program highlights the needs of 12 families and helps hundreds of others through local nonprofit organizations. The Simpsons were nominated by Hospice Austin.
ABC Home & Commercial Services has agreed to help with the plumbing work and pest control.
“We care about our community and are glad we were able to help Simpson family, especially during the holiday season," said Bobby Jenkins, owner of ABC Home & Commercial Services
ABC knew they could handle the plumbing and extermination, but they weren't sure about electrical repairs because it's a mobile home.
Jon Wells wasn't sure either, but he decided to give it a try after reading the Simpson story in the paper. Wells is a retired engineer who estimates he has volunteered on about 150 Habitat for Humanity homes. He also has dealt with flooded homes before. When the 2015 Memorial Day weekend floods hit Wimberley, he saw a call for volunteers in the paper. "Once they found out I had electrical experience, I spent some time down there," he said.
"I enjoy it," he said of working with Habitat for Humanity and other volunteer projects. "I'm happy to be helpful."
He's already been able to fix some of the electrical outlets and is going back to fix some others.
More people have reached out to help. Tony Cortez and his co-workers at the Texas Department of Insurance's Hispanic Cultural Committee collected items for the Simpsons. They were able to donate more than $600 worth of gift cards, household items and cash to help the family.
"So happy to do this for them," he emailed Hospice Austin. "Season of Caring and giving! Gives me back so much more."
He made sure to gift wrap everything, "just like Santa would do," he wrote.
"We try to do this every year," he said later. "It's always fun."
Longtime Hospice Austin volunteer Carole Price and an anonymous donor each contributed enough money for the Simpsons to take a trip to Corpus Christi to see the ocean. The anonymous donor told Hospice Austin to tell the Simpsons: "An old hippie couple from South Austin want you to have fun!"
The Simpsons still have many things on their wish list including car repairs, new flooring, hearing aids for Charles, eye exams and water therapy for Debra.
To find out more about the couple or to fulfill an item on the wish list, contact Hospice Austin at 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org.