Home made over for Battle Ground family

Volunteers did the makeover to help pair who give much

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: March 27, 2012, 9:41 AM

 

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Read more about the Epps here.

BATTLE GROUND -- After three months watching dozens of volunteers swing hammers, install plumbing and lay tile inside his home, Brian Epp beamed Friday evening when the topic of landscaping came up in conversation. He would personally see to it that his yard was as beautiful as his home’s new interior.

Epp, 42, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, watched others turn his living room into a first floor master bedroom and added a new living room, master bathroom and closet. Deteriorating motor skills limited his participation beyond taking photos and blogging -- a difficult task for a man who takes pride in doing things himself.

Since Dec. 20, Epp’s friends, church family and community, and both local and national businesses contributed their time, talents and, in many cases, money to the Battle Ground home makeover, a project intended to make it easier for him to spend more time with his wife, Jennie, and their three children.

Epp’s eroding motor skills made it increasingly difficult for him to climb the stairs to their old bedroom. The finished project lets him stay downstairs while the couple’s sons -- Connor, 7, Brenden, 11, and Christopher, 13 -- live upstairs.

“Even people who don’t have tons of time and tons of money have stepped up and donated their time and money,” marveled Curtis Wharton, a longtime friend of Brian Epp’s who organized a group of contractors and businesses to build the additions, which he estimated cost around $70,000. People have been eager to help Epp, Wharton added, because he never shied away from helping others.

Epp’s father, Landis, a well-known trauma chaplain in Clark County, called volunteers’ contributions “humbling and amazing,” while standing in his son’s new bathroom Friday.

Epp showcased his new digs Friday evening, navigating his power chair comfortably through the spacious bathroom, closet and then into his bedroom, which he and his wife moved into this month. Epp worked as an officer with the Longview Police Department before he was diagnosed with ALS in 2010.

“It’s so nice I can live as normal as I can,” Epp said of his home’s new interior. He spoke via his DynaVox, a machine that recites words he types. ALS has made his speech slurred and labored, but his effervescent smile remains present.

The word “normal” has different connotations in the Epp household.

Jennie Epp, 41, was diagnosed in 2007 with smoldering multiple myeloma, a cancer related to the bone marrow. Her cancer has spread more slowly than for most people who have it, she said, attributing that fact to a healthy diet and a considerable amount of prayer.

As grounded in her faith as she is, the thought of dying of cancer is still hard.

“I’ve got kids that I want to stick around for, people I don’t want to leave and people I want to help,” she said.

Among the people Jennie Epp aspires to help are other ALS sufferers and their families. Their new home is a godsend in this way, she said, because it is easily navigable for people with ALS.

The Epps are also looking forward to celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary May 20 in Hawaii -- a trip possible through the kindness of people who worked on the home makeover.

Before the vacation, there is still work to do.

Epp, who once owned a landscaping business, spoke excitedly about operating a backhoe on Saturday. His determined outlook led Wharton to drive him to finish a landscaping plan.

“I’m not treating him like an invalid,” Wharton said. “I’m treating him like one of the guys, which is cool.”

You can learn more about Brian and Jennie Epp at http://bghomemakeover.blogspot.com.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; http://facebook.com/raylegend; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; mail to:ray.legendre@columbian.com.