Fran and Ron have been helping others since they moved to the Rim country seven years ago, and now, thanks to the Town of Payson's Housing Rehabilitation Program, they have received some timely assistance themselves.
The couple, who want to remain anonymous, just had nearly $20,000 worth of much needed renovations done on their Payson home through the program, which is available to town residents who qualify. The improvements included a new roof and furnace, additional heating ducts, electrical upgrades, partial replumbing, shower wall replacement, rebuilt bathroom floor, complete exterior paint job, tree trimming and the addition of a new deck to replace a ramshackle porch.
"Our house is a 30-year-old mobile with some add-ons," Fran said, "and with our ages and being on Social Security, it was just too much for us." Still, she said, applying for the grant "felt strange."
They finally did so because Marcy Rogers, town redevelopment/housing coordinator, kept encouraging them to. And others need not feel strange about applying for assistance through the program, Rogers said.
The couple knew Rogers through their volunteer work.
"Ron and I both mend clothing that's been donated to the Payson Community Kids program, and he also repairs donated toys," Fran said. "We also make stuffed animals and pillows for the kids."
"Marcy is always dropping a box of clothes or toys off for us to fix."
The housing rehabilitation program, which is funded by the Arizona Department of Commerce and the Community Development Block Grant Program, is designed for those with low to moderate income, Rogers said. It provides up to $20,000 toward the cost of a wide variety of home improvements and repairs, or the replacement of mobile or manufactured homes.
Applicants must meet two eligibility requirements. They must have a household income that does not exceed 80 percent of the Gila County median income, and they must own and occupy a home that can be rehabilitated to provide decent and safe housing within the funding limit.
A family of four can have an income as high as $26,300 and still qualify for the program.
"If their income is considered low, they can get a direct grant, and if it's moderate they can get a deferred loan," Rogers said.
It also must be feasible to make the home "decent and safe" within the $20,000 funding limit. Fran and Ron's house just made it.
"The electrical had been connected to a meter on a big tree," Fran said. "The furnace had a crack in it and was leaking gas, and the porch was infested with termites.
"The previous owners had added a big room on and there was no heat to it. There were ponderosa pines hanging over the house with a lot of dead wood in them.
"We have always taken care of our properties, but retirement slows you down," she said.
Fran and Ron were part of the first group of six families that qualified for the program. Rogers is currently working on the second six, and she expects the program to continue into the foreseeable future.
"Rehab programs need to be ongoing to really make a difference," she said.
Applications are available at Town Hall and at the Roundup office, and Rogers can be reached at 474-5242 for more information.
Once an applicant is accepted into the program, Rogers solicits bids for the work and the applicants choose from the three lowest bids.
The town only provides funding for the lowest bidder. Property owners who select a higher bid must pay the difference.
"All the contractors are licensed, bonded, insured and in good standing with the town," Fran said. "They even tell you how many working days it will take them to finish the job."
The contractor Fran and Ron selected promised to be done in 29 days. "I lost count after a while, but they got it done early," Fran said.
Far from the hassle the couple had expected, it turned out to be a pleasant experience.
"I know it sounds silly to say there weren't any problems," Fran said, "but there weren't; all the subcontractors were polite, clean and cooperative.
"The whole experience just really lifted our spirits, she said. "It was like Christmas every day."
Fran and Ron moved to Tucson from Iowa in 1976, and retired to Payson in 1993. While they are limited by health problems and their retirement income, they take great pleasure in doing what they can to help the community.
They didn't expect anything in return, they said, but they truly appreciate their good fortune.
"We just love Payson," Fran said.