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Community effort saves a woman's home

Palmer and a fellow volunteer work to clean Rice's home in August.
Dee Rice and Rakele Palmer embrace warmly after discussing the project which saved Rice's home from condemnation earlier this year.
Volunteer Jeff Palmer shows the depth at which community volunteers worked on Rice's home.

Sun Advocate reporter

Those with older homes know that the smallest household maintenance issue can open a huge can of worms and cost thousands of dollars. A leaking faucet becomes a broken water main, or a soft spot in the floor turns out to be a termite infestation. For Deanna Rice, of East Carbon, a plumbing issue almost made her homeless.

Thankfully for Rice, her community refused to let that happen. Over a two month period, upwards of 30 volunteers took a residential triage and turned it into a complete renovation.

After providing primary care for a slew of foster children as well as both her mother and sister, Rice who is 61, was facing major financial problems and a home that was not fit to live in.

The massive nature of the home's need, coupled with Rice's tendency to hoard, caused an already dire situation to worsen. When she finally called in a plumber, a local home inspector showed up and threatened to condemn her house.

Just as the situation seemed to have reached its darkest point, Rice's friend Rakele Palmer learned how bad Rice's situation had become and stepped in. The Carbon County community stepped in with her.

"We have had a wonderful friendship for over 40 years," said Palmer, who is the Office Manager at Bruin Point Elementary, where Rice also works and volunteers. "The home was left to her in terrible condition and the situation simply overwhelmed her."

According to Palmer, the entire residence was full from the floor to the ceiling with Rice's possessions and items many would consider refuse. The residence was filled to the point where Rice had a small track which only allowed to access to a few rooms in the home.

"It had gotten to the point where we either we did something fast or she was going to be put out of her home," said Jeff Palmer, who did the major portion of construction within the home. "It was a difficult process, she wanted to keep some things and we knew it all needed to go. Eventually, we had to have to have her leave because she was getting rather upset."

At first, the Palmers and a few volunteers had planned to get Rice's plumbing up to snuff and do a little cleaning. Two months later, the home on Carson Avenue has been renovated from floor to ceiling in every room.

Donations from area businesses like Sutherlands, who pitched in $1,000, CJ's Do It Center, Miner's Trading Post and Petersen Chemical just to name a few, as well as private donations from the likes of Gust and Tara Kalatzes made the renovation possible.

"My favorite part of the whole process is my new bed," said Rice, who's emotions boiled to the top during her interview with the Sun Advocate. "Before I had a twin bed, with a mattress which had completely conformed to my body. Now I have a huge queen with a new mattress and I sleep wonderfully."

For Rice, see her community come together behind her was very special. She recounted just how shocked she was when the project began in late August and 30 people showed up to work on her home.

"There was this massive crew," she said. "And they were there to help, I have never felt so special. Nobody expects people to just drop what they have going in their own lives and give their time away like that."

The 30-plus volunteers who aided in the renovation came from every corner of the county and provided everything from a couple hours of service to weeks of dedicated renovation.

A complete list of those who participated in the project will be listed online at

With the renovation complete, Rice has taken some advice concerning home care and no longer has an issue throwing things away. More than two months after cleanup, her home is still antiseptically clean.

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