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Giving a victim a home

• Volunteers help rebuild home lost in wildfire

Posted: June 15, 2008 1:40 a.m.
Updated: August 16, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers help paint the living room of the Tindell home, in Newhall, as the organization stepped up to renovate the home and make it livable for the Tindell family. Jim Tindell (not pictured) suffered burn wounds from last year's October wildfires as he was saving horses from a ranch.

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In one room, Saugus resident Lisa Jenkins and her daughter, Erin, teamed with Jenkins' sister Mandy Shaw of Montrose to renew the more than 40-year-old walls of the Newhall home with a fresh coat of white paint.

"It's a great way to be able to help people," Jenkins said.

Next door, Lisa and Mandy's father, Jim Shaw, worked in the kitchen, which was getting an updated look that was complete with a new oven and dishwasher.

The Habitat for Humanity volunteers, comprised mainly of The Gas Company employees, also were in the backyard, which was being cleared of all the dead leaves that shadowed the pathway on the hillside and covered the spotty patches of dry, yet still green, grass.

And while each room had its own needs, the 70 Habitat volunteers had only one goal when they signed up to dedicate their Saturday to the renovation project: to give the Tindell family a comfortable and safe place to live.

The effort was spearheaded by the Habitat for Humanity North Los Angeles County division and The Gas Company. With help from the Santa Clarita Valley Disaster Coalition, the two organizations paved the way for a home from the 1960s to be converted into a livable space for a family whose father, Jim Tindell, is considered a local hero by many.

Tindell was severely burned during the October 2007 wildfires when he attempted to save horses from the Heads Up Ranch property on Bouquet Canyon Road.

For nearly five months, the father of two young children remained at the Grossman Burn Clinic in Van Nuys as he underwent numerous surgeries to treat the burns on his arms, face and back. He is still receiving treatments his burns and on Saturday underwent more surgeries to repair his hand.

His wife said he remains in "good spirits" and is working well with the doctors and therapists.

After learning about the Tindell family's story, Donna Deutchman, CEO and executive director of the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys Habitat for Humanity, teamed up with The Gas Company and the Santa Clarita Valley Disaster Coalition as part of the "Brush with Kindness" program, which offers aid to fire victims as they rebuild their lives from the October 2007 wildfires.

Although Habitat is known for building homes for low income families from the foundation up, Saturday' project was slightly different.

Terry Tindell, wife of Jim, said that the Newhall home being renovated was once owned by her 92-year-old father, who currently lives in a nursing home. "As he moved out, he wanted Jim and I to move into the house so that we could be safe here," Terry Tindell said while sitting on the porch of her soon-to-be home as volunteers shuffled in and out with trash and equipment.

Her father grew older and Terry Tindell said he was unable to take care of the home.

After the October wildfires struck, the Tindells moved to various temporary homes.

But even as her husband continued to undergo treatments at the burn clinic, the couple maintained their dedication to Heads Up. "We love doing that job," she said. "We can't stay away from it."

But now with Saturday's community service project, Tindell hopes her family will finally have a stable place to call home. She hopes to live at the Newhall home and drive out to the ranch on weekends to tend to the horses and remain involved in the program.

"This house is really offering us a stability that my children will be able to enjoy," she said, referring to 12-year-old Lee and 8-year-old Elizabeth.

By the end of the day, the renovation was complete, the trash bins in the front yard were overflowing with garbage and the house looked refreshed.

And while Terry Tindell is looking forward to having a color-coordinated home with renovated rooms, the renewed space will have an emotional significance for the Tindells.

"It just means a comfort for Jim and the family to just snuggle in and be happy here," she said. "I feel very safe in this home."

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