Saratoga County

After August fire, ‘Holiday Miracle Project’ helps Wilton family make new home accessible for daughter

Volunteers with The Giving Circle assist The Gonzalez family with renovations to make their new residence wheelchair-accessible
Volunteer Matt Larkin, 19 of Saratoga Springs, helps paint wall base panels with Abby Gonzalez
Volunteer Matt Larkin, 19 of Saratoga Springs, helps paint wall base panels with Abby Gonzalez

Categories: News, Saratoga County

Abby and Jose Gonzalez will receive the thing they need the most for the holidays—a home.

The Wilton residents lost their home and most of their possessions back in August, when the building that housed both their apartment and Operation Adopt A Soldier’s headquarters was gutted by fire.

Abby and Jose had lived there with their two children, their young son, Harper, and their 19-year-old daughter, Natalie, who uses a wheelchair.

After months of instability as they tried to figure out their next step, living with friends and, more recently, out of a hotel, the family will have a brand new house to move in to by the new year, thanks to some local volunteers.

The family has been working alongside The Giving Circle, an all volunteer non-profit organization based in Saratoga Springs that works to provide resources to struggling families in both the Capital Region and around the world.

The renovation of the Gonzalez family’s new family home, also located in Wilton, is part of The Giving Circle’s “Holiday Miracle Project.”

While the family closed on the new house right before Thanksgiving, Ron Deutsch with The Giving Circle said extensive modifications still needed to be made before the home could accommodate Natalie’s wheelchair.

“We wanted to help the family out,” Deutsch said on Sunday, as volunteers worked on the home prior to move-in. “We wound up getting a lot more done than we ever anticipated.”

The Giving Circle held a fundraiser just after Thanksgiving to raise money for construction materials. Work started the weekend of Dec. 14, and is slated to be finished next weekend. 

Deutsch said there were up to 45 volunteers coming by, all with a range of skills from carpentry to plumbing to electricity, to help get the home up to speed. Many of the volunteers, Deutsch said, are former Saratoga Springs High School students, who knew Jose Gonzalez in his longterm role as the school’s Grounds Monitor.

The work on the house has been extensive, and involved painting multiple rooms, replacing wood floors, putting in new, wider front and back doors for Natalie’s wheelchair, building an indoor ramp to provide access to the interior of the home for her, and turning two bedrooms in the back of the house into a combined bedroom bathroom suite for her.

“Lots of people with skills came together. It’s been an amazing experience,” Deutsch said.

Abby Gonzalez was at the new house in Wilton on Sunday helping out with the remodeling work. Once she and her husband closed on the house, she said, they were in contact with The Giving Circle to set up the remodeling work weekends.

The months after the fire, Gonzalez said, were difficult because of a lack of stability. While she said that finding their feet after the fire was not easy, the couple pushed through by focusing on the goal of restoring a sense of normalcy for their children.

“It’s been a long journey,” she said. “It took us two and a half months to say, okay, we need to move forward. Jose and I, we never lost focus on what we needed to do.”

The jump from apartment to home, she said, was not one that she and her husband had been prepared to make so soon, but were able to achieve due to the support of organizations including The Giving Circle. Abby said that at times, she’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that has been shown to her family, but pointed out that their story now goes beyond them. The local community, she said, has shown that it’s ready to step up and help whoever needs it.

“There were just so many community volunteers. I don’t have words. It’s amazing,” she said.

And while it’ll be nice to have a home for the holidays, Gonzalez said the community support did more than help them fix the building. People made them feel safe and secure, she said.

“We just never lost sight of the fact that we are all safe, we’re all together. We’re kind of at the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t have the words to express our gratitude and appreciation for what everyone has done,” she said.

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