Las Vegas family gets heat, help, and hope
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
This home has seen better days and this family has had better years.
“It’s just stuff we can't afford to pay right now. So we're just doing the best we can to take care of our kids,” mom Abana Stephenson tells me as she gives me a tour of her kitchen, with a broken window, and an oven with a busted handle.
Those are the least of the problems at the Las Vegas house off Rainbow, they’ve called home for about 15 years. The toilet’s busted. The AC and heat don’t work upstairs.
“At least ten years these kids have been coming down right in this room where we're at and sleeping to either stay cool in the summertime or to get warm in the wintertime,” Stephenson told me as we sat in the living room, with Grandma on the couch, along with daughters Sarah, 16, and Zipporah, 15.
The home is worn and weathered. The rooftop heating/AC unit was installed when Elvis was popular.
“Well, the machine was manufactured in 1969, which makes it 47 years old,” said Michael Gamst, Manager at Goettl Air Conditioning.
Gamst may look like an AC guy, but on Thursday, he and his fellow workers at Goettl Air and Sunny Plumbing, Santa. They got a tip this family needed some help, and they swung into action.
“When the employees started pulling money out of their own pockets and getting gift cards and just going above and beyond, it just warmed the hearts of everybody,” he told me.
So that new unit for the roof, the new toilet for the house...all worth, “well over ten thousand dollars,” Gamst tells me, today, all free.
“It makes me have faith in people again that there is good caring people out there,” Abana Stephenson tells me. Next to her is her Christmas tree, with wrapped gifts on the floor, many donated by Gamst’s fellow co-workers and the non-profit Triple5teens.
For Stephenson's, It's been a tough past few years. She was raped about six-years-ago, leaving her with post-traumatic stress. She escaped her attacker but the scars linger.
“It was a brutal rape. There were beatings. I was handcuffed to a bed for hours,” she says.
Life, after that, threw other roadblocks.
“Just financial problem after financial problem,” said Stephenson.
Money was very, very tight, and contractors they hired to fix things, fled.
“We gave money for someone to do the landscaping and that didn’t get finished, and we paid someone to fix what they’re doing right now. Lasted six months and broke,” she says.
“Air conditioning unit – that’s like buying a car for us,” Stephenson adds.
Which is why today helps. Their electric bill was 600 bucks a month.
“We expect to drop that by about 50 percent or more, just depending upon the usage,” said Goettl’s Gamst.
For the Stephensons, the savings couldn’t come at a better time. “Oh my God, it’s going to help – a lot,” says the mother, fighting back tears.
So now, the girls, who would have to sleep downstairs, can sleep in their beds.
“It's cool, like I didn't expect this to happen to us. it was kind of shocking,” says 16-year-old Sarah, a student at Bonanza.
Thursday was full of surprises.
We couldn't see if from the ground but on the roof, we found a sign painted in big letters says "There's Love Here".
Abana painted that when she and her husband were flirting with foreclosure.
“I felt like I needed to make a statement, and make a statement to the world that love lives here and this house is important to my family,” she said.
And now it's a home that will be cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
“Great to see her be warm through the holidays because literally when you're warm and safe, that's when you're at home,” said Michael Gamst.