SOUTH HAVEN | Jason Reber, a contractor who has volunteered for Rebuilding Together Portage for two decades and now sits on their board, heard the story of Gary Spurlock and his son William Spurlock and knew he had to give their home all of the labor and resources he could find.
So Reber took two weeks off from work, putting his own paychecks on hold, so he could overhaul the Spurlock’s home, which was in need of “a complete flip,” said Reber — new roof, new vinyl siding, new windows, new doors, wall and foundation repairs, carpeting, painting and more.
Gary Spurlock and his son William are both disabled and William’s mother died of diabetes when he was just 7 years old, so the family home in South Haven had gone into disrepair.
When William was born he was airlifted to Riley’s Childrens’ Hospital for windpipe repair, but today at age 26 he is a success story, employed by Opportunity Enterprises, perhaps due in large part to his own strength as well as the dedication and love of his father, Gary, who obtained a degree from Indiana University in respiratory therapy so he could take care of his son.
“He’s my buddy. He’s my best friend,” said Gary Spurlock who himself is disabled after a series of injuries early in life and a major surgery to his back in 2003.
“The good Lord kept me around for a reason," Gary Spurlock said. "He got me through school and he brought Jason to us.”
Jason Reber, along with his father Bob Reber and a volunteer or two from his business, Reber Construction, may have spent countless hours working to rebuild the Spurlock family home, but the Spurlocks in turn have rebuilt Reber’s faith in the power of the human spirit.
“When I met them, I wanted to fix everything. I grew up in this neighborhood so these are my people. I’ve been through hard times, had to file for bankruptcy and now I take one day at a time, but this project was way more important than money. When I came here to look at this project, it was one of the cleanest homes I’ve seen and they had so much respect for their home. But it needed so much work. I did this for William,” Reber said.
William helped too — as a fan of horror movies and Halloween, William painted the family mailbox with a jack-o-lantern and a skull. And the project will continue for a few more days, especially since they are in need of carpeting and a garage door which Rebuilding Together Portage hopes to find through a donation.
But for Gary Spurlock, the result of all of the work from Reber means more than lower NIPSCO bills from new windows, safer living from flashing fire alarms since William is deaf, and a healthier domicile from the elimination of mold and rot — it’s about family.
“It’s just awesome,” says Gary Spurlock, getting choked up and fighting back the tears. “In fact, it’s a miracle.”
“This is a guy with a big heart,” he said of Reber. “And he came into our lives and now William has a friend. He signs ‘I love you’ whenever Jason leaves. William has been really happy.”