Woman burned out of home helped by Home Depot

James Croft, store manager of the Home Depot, uses an excavator donated by Diamond Rental to tear down a trailer destroyed in an arson fire. - Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
James Croft, store manager of the Home Depot, uses an excavator donated by Diamond Rental to tear down a trailer destroyed in an arson fire.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

Things are looking up for Oak Harbor resident Nancy Dehn, thanks to volunteers from the Home Depot and many anonymous Good Samaritans.

Dehn felt abandoned by the community after she lost her mobile home and all her possessions in an arson fire last November. She was credited with saving the life of her roommate, a troubled 66-year-old woman who started the fire, but received little support from local residents afterward. Dehn worried that rumors about drug use in her former household was the reason behind people’s reluctance to help.

But Dehn said that all changed after a Whidbey News-Times story that highlighted her plight, as well as the conviction of the woman who set the fire. She immediately started receiving calls from people who wanted to help and since then has received donations of household goods, cash and even a couple of new beds for her and a 16-year-old girl who lives with her.

“We’re not sleeping on the floor anymore,” she said. “It’s wonderful. You don’t know.”

For Dehn, the most important good deed involved demolition. The burned-out shell of Dehn’s house had been sitting in the Parkwood Manor trailer park since the Nov. 4 fire. She didn’t have money to have it removed, so the park continued to charge her $436 a month in rent. Meanwhile, she rented a room in a neighboring trailer.

But then the Home Depot came to the rescue. Liz Bennett, assistant manager, said the team at the store is always looking for ways to help the community. The employees decided to volunteer their time to help Dehn, as well as the trailer park as a whole, by razing the trailer. They enlisted help from Diamond Rental, Island Disposal, Z Recyclers and Island County.

James Croft, the store manager, first tore down the structure with an excavator provided by Diamond Rental of Oak Harbor. Then more than a dozen employees did the hard work of picking up the pieces and putting them in dumpsters, which were provided by Island Disposal. Island County’s solid waste department agreed to accept the debris for disposal without charge. The metal pieces were handled by Z Recyclers.

“We want to get the majority of this stuff cleaned out so it doesn’t create a problem for homeowners in here or endanger kids,” said Aileen Kesler, a Home Depot employee who volunteered her time.

Indeed, the burned-out shells had attracted delinquents who dumped garbage and looted plumbing and other items.

Dehn said she’s extremely appreciative of all the work the volunteers did, as well as the donations she’s received. One woman gave her a bunch of Rubbermaid totes to keep her property safe. She was surprised to find an envelope containing $100 in one the containers, but the woman left too quickly for Dehn to thank her.

“I don’t know who she was. It was like she was the masked rider or something,” Dehn said.

Dehn said she still plans to move to California to be near her baby grandchild, but she won’t be able to until she can afford the move. She’s not sure when that day will come.


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