A senior with a leaky roof was surprised to learn a raffle for a free repair job was simply the work of a Good Samaritan.
The raffle never existed.
“Yes, he tricked me," said Jeanette MacDonald, 70, of Glace Bay, laughing.
It all began a few weeks ago when Jeremy Locke, owner of Locke's Roofing and Construction Ltd., knocked on MacDonald's door asking if she’d like to be in a raffle his company was holding for a new roof.
“I told him, ‘sure,’ I won’t pass up a raffle,'” said MacDonald, who had never met Locke before.
Little did MacDonald know, she‘d be the only ticket in the draw.
Locke said he had tried to help MacDonald months before, as he knew her roof was in horrible shape and was worried with winter coming.
“Some people are proud and don’t like accepting help, especially from strangers,” Locke said.
After hearing Locke out, MacDonald agreed and is grateful for the company’s help.
“I told her not to worry about the raffle — she had already won!" Locke added.
Locke’s Roofing and Construction will be providing the entire roof – material, and labour – all free.
HOW IT BEGAN
The story actually began back in the spring. Locke, 25, said his company is based in his hometown of Bridgeport and he’d pick up his roofing crew and drive by MacDonald's house pretty well every day.
The house had actually caught his eye for a couple of years now, as the roof was clearly in deplorable condition.
“She’s had a blue tarp nailed on it for a few years,” he said. “Some parts are open to the elements.”
He’d often see an older woman outside with what appeared to be her grandchildren, so knew they lived there too.
“We felt they should have a dry home to live in, especially with winter coming.”
Growing up. Locke didn’t have a whole lot. At one point, he traveled Canada living in vans and cars.
“I even know what it’s like to live without a toilet,” he said.
Locke started his own roofing business a year ago.
In the spring he first showed up at MacDonald's door, telling her it was obvious a new roof was needed and offering to help by replacing it for free.
“I didn’t know who the woman was, but I wanted to take care of this for her and her grandchildren.”
But MacDonald was too proud to accept his offer. She told him she had applied for a grant. Locke left his card in case the grant didn’t go through.
“It wasn’t a sales tactic, we wanted to help her,” he said.
Locke was even more touched after meeting her — she reminded him of his grandmother.
“She was burning wood — I was betting she made homemade bread and was probably a good cook.”
Months later, the situation continued to bother him. He realized nothing had been done with her roof — it was in the same shape and he was pretty sure all the grants were over for the year.
That’s when Locke returned a few weeks ago. Although many companies hold social media "like and share’" contests to give out such prizes, Locke said the winner should be someone who really needs it..
“I think these things should be gifted to people who truly deserve and need it.”
MacDonald lives in a small older home, the front door of which is held together with duct tape and with only a wood stove for heat.
“I get up early and put it on for the kids," she said.
At age 51, MacDonald went back to school and took a continuing care assistants course but then ended up needing to be at home to look after her grandchildren. A single woman, MacDonald not only raised her own two children but four of her seven grandchildren from babies, who all still live with her. Three — ages 13, 14, and 17 — are still in school and the oldest, Austin, 20, is working his first job.
Though there wasn’t a lot of money in the home, there was never any shortage of love..
“Love you!’" Austin yells to his grandmother as he leaves for work.
“I’m lucky to have them," said MacDonald as she watched him leave.
She lives on her old age security pension. At one time, she had a coal stove in the kitchen but for most of her 35 years in the house it has just been an old wood stove for heat.
The past few years, MacDonald’s roof began deteriorating steadily, but a year ago it got even worse.
“The tropical storms — the wind and the rain — is what really messed it up,” she said.
MacDonald always cringes when rain is on the way, knowing it means grabbing buckets and pans.
“We’d have a bucket there," she said pointing to the hallway. “Then in (grandson) Kyle’s room, we’d have pots and pans.”
When shingles came off, the boys would try to fix them.
“God love my grandsons, they’d try.”
Although MacDonald had applied for a grant through the Department of Housing, she never heard back from them. She said she’s still surprised Locke is doing this, adding no one has ever offered to help her before.
“I have said to people, ‘I could win $1 million and it wouldn’t make me as happy as knowing I’m getting a new roof on,'” she said. “Jeremy is really something. He’s a guardian angel sent from God.”
Locke is preparing to start work on the roof Monday.
Between material and labour, he’s estimating the project is worth about $9,000
Locke had only one request — a meal from the woman who reminds him of his grandmother.
“He asked if on the last day of work if he and the crew could come in for supper,” MacDonald said.
She thought that was great.
"I’ll make lasagna, she said. “I want them to come in and have a meal and enjoy themselves.”
But Locke’s not done yet. Since meeting MacDonald, he can’t shake the fact she only has a wood stove for heat. He's hoping other companies will now jump on board to make a difference in this family’s life.
“I’m hoping someone out there will show up with a heat pump,” he said, adding “it takes 11 cords of wood to get through a winter.”