Leni Noya’s life is pretty simple.
She does chores around the house, reads a lot of books, walks her dog, Daisy, and goes to church on Sunday mornings before she plays dominoes at her sister’s house.
In some ways, Noya chooses to live this way. But, really, she also doesn’t have much choice.
Noya, 65, is a disabled Vietnam War veteran. She served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps for two years before getting out in 1966.
As a single woman living in Bulow Plantation, Noya lives disability check to disability check.
About three years ago, she had a hip replacement and was later diagnosed with congestive heart failure — her heart beats at a substantially slower rate than an average heart.
Because of her disability, she also had to forego working a part-time job.
So for the past three years, she has used patchwork repairs to prevent her roof from completely falling apart. She has solicited with signs on her mailbox for anyone willing to slap tar over a few of its many holes.
Several spots on the roof still leak. But last week, it all came to a head.
A gaping hole opened up on the ceiling in the master bedroom, where Noya sleeps next to a large tub, which collects the water that inevitably pours in whenever it rains.
Every night, when Noya rests her head down on her pillow, she stares at that hole. Less than one inch of plywood and shingles separates her from seeing stars.
For two years, Noya has tried to find a contractor to replace her roof for cheap. What some people might spend in groceries in one trip, Noya has to survive on for an entire month.
After paying her land rent, mortgage and utilites, Noya has less than $250 for everything else, such as food, clothes, gas, dog food and vet visits, and other incidentals.
“I have to be very, very careful with what I do,” Noya said Thursday, just after she finished sweeping up more clumps of ceiling from her floor. “Financially, I can’t do (much). I have to hold on to what I have because if something goes wrong, I need whatever money I do have.”
Right now, Noya is saving money to fix a timing belt on her PT Cruiser.
But after two years of no luck securing an inexpensive roof repair, Noya was down to one last option.
About three months ago, she joined Grace Tabernacle, a Flagler County-based church led by the Rev. Charles Silano. Silano is well known throughout the community for helping others, notably in his food bank, Grace Community Food Bank, and most recently for bringing drinking water to more than 2,000 residents in Daytona North.
On a recent Sunday after church, Noya watched Silano get into his car. She wanted to ask him for help, but she was too nervous. She went home. Finally, she mustered up the courage to send him an email.
Silano then got with Thomas Stauffacher, director of operations for the St. Johns Housing Partnership. A few emails and two hours later, Stauffacher was able to put together a group that will soon replace Noya’s roof.
Stauffacher said this is his first main project in Flagler County. The St. Johns Housing Partnership, a nonprofit construction firm established in 1997, completed about 350 construction-related jobs last year, but Stauffacher said that will likely be cut in half this year because of funding.
Still, he knows there is a need here.
“All the pieces are here in Flagler, there is just no organization to make things happen, and there’s no funding to do it on a regular basis,” he said.
Right now, Stauffacher has a waiting list of more than 250 people who need repairs but don’t have the money to pay for it.
He says he has no personal motive for helping others. He does it because he loves it.
“It’s not every day that you get paid to do what you want to do,” he said. “Leni didn’t know me for more than five minutes, but (after I explained what I can do for her), she hugged me. There’s value in that hug.”
The project to repair Noya’s roof will cost around $3,800, Stauffacher said. The event was organized through the Flagler Home Builders Association. Stephen M. Rende Roofing Inc. will supply the material and labor to install the new roof, and the St. Johns Housing Partnership will donate nail guns and felt paper.
The project will be finished in time for Make A Difference Day, a national day of giving, which will be Oct. 27.
One day, after the roof is repaired, Noya hopes to get another part-time job. Until then, she will continue getting by on the bare minimum. And through it all, she said she is “blessed beyond belief.”
“I don’t know what else to say,” Noya said. “I’m so grateful to these people. They are absolutely amazing, and I don’t know how to verbalize it. It’s wonderful.”
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