Leanne Lundquist has spent most of her 47 years helping others. Now, for what seems like the first time in her life, she finds herself as the one in need.
The child of a father addicted to drugs and a mother who was a prostitute, Lundquist bounced between foster homes and homelessness during her teenage years. She’s had tongue cancer, glaucoma, diabetes and currently has a tumor near her intestinal tract that needs to be removed.
Then there’s the issue of her roof.
Lundquist gave her former residence to her children, who she said would not otherwise be able to afford housing. She bought a new home on Sandhurst Drive during a foreclosure that closed in June but has faced several obstacles. She looked at the home in winter, when the roof was covered with snow. Upon purchasing the home, she realized the roof was in bad shape.
It leaks to the point that it fills up a pair of buckets on her bedroom floor. The first person who “fixed it” refused to guarantee his work; the second one charged her $1,000 for work that she said should have cost $100 upon learning more.
But by the time Thanksgiving Day rolls around, Lundquist will have a new roof with a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years. She has Facebook — and a stranger — to thank for that.
On Nov. 2, Facebook user Eric Libby offered to donate a free roof on the Boise Bench Dwellers Facebook group, a private page for residents of its namesake area to discuss local topics. The message was simple: Need a roof? Comment on the post. That led to hundreds of people asking for help and suggesting others — including Lundquist.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s humbling. I don’t know how to explain it,” she said. “I’m usually on the other side of things.”
Lundquist endured a tough upbringing in California before moving to Idaho at the age of 14. While living on the streets, she said she found meals out of dumpsters and dropped out of high school in the 10th grade.
But her tough start served as motivation to create better endings for others.
When she came of age, she began fostering her younger sister. Despite dropping out of Boise High School, she received her GED and a nursing degree from Boise State University, furthering her desire to give back.
In an attempt to help others live better than she did, Lundquist has officially served as a foster parent for three children and has unofficially taken in seven additional teenagers and five adults, including her own mother. Whether their parents were addicts like hers were or were victims of other circumstances, Lundquist always made room.
“She is an amazing, kind and powerful woman who has never been defined by the many challenges she has faced,” said Cecilia Rinn, who has been friends with Lundquist since middle school and was a “punk rocker” with her at Boise High School. “I always look to her for strength, love and honesty. I love her dearly.”
Lundquist does not use the past as an excuse or crutch; it’s her reminder to be better.
“I wanted to raise my kids differently than where I came from,” Lundquist said. “That’s what made me want to do it.”
But medical issues have hindered Lundquist most of her life. She was diagnosed with diabetes around age 14 and had a subsequent kidney transplant in 2006. A car crash that required a pair of shoulder surgeries has left her unable to work at her job at the Department of Health and Welfare since 2011.
Lundquist had no idea how to pay for a roof and an upcoming surgery to remove her tumor at the end of the month.
The leaky roof not only kept her up at night during storms, but she believed there could be mold forming that might be dangerous given her low immunity. She says she cannot take people in any longer because of the home’s current state.
She needed a helping hand for a roof that would have cost upward of $10,000.
“My health is enough for me to manage, let alone worrying about the roof,” she said.
‘Looking to donate’
For Libby, poring over all of the names and pictures of damaged roofs on his Facebook post was admittedly “overwhelming.”
Libby got his business license for Treasure Valley Roofing in October. In addition to starting a business, the 29-year-old has gone through his own difficulties in recent months. One of his close friends recently died of a drug overdose; he says that moment served as a wake-up call for service to others.
Offering a free roof on Facebook might sound odd. But in 2017, social media is a way of reaching the masses and discovering strangers in need. That’s exactly what Libby intended.
“I had some extra funds and wanted to do something I’ve never done before: give,” Libby said. “I know there are a lot of people out there that can’t afford a 6- to 10-thousand-dollar roof and I know (life) is hard for everyone. (That’s) what really wanted me to donate and give back.”
Several Facebook posters suggested Lundquist as someone who could also use the help. Knowing the work she had done as a foster parent and as a kind soul in general, she received several endorsements.
“This woman is one of the most generous, loving women I know,” Shellee Spurrier Ocaranza wrote. “She recently bought a home and has been let down by so-called businesses when it comes to repairs. Her roof is in need of repairs before the snow hits.”
“Leanne Lundquist could really use the help! She’s limited on cash as is. Maybe not even a full roof. I’m not 110% sure what she needs help with,” wrote Brandon Abbott, one of the children she fostered. “I just know she could use some help really bad.”
Libby, who went to cooking to school with Lundquist’s son but hadn’t really ever met Leanne, read the feedback and agreed with the commenters: A new, metal roof was to be placed on Lundquist’s house at no charge.
“There was a hole that was leading right into her bedroom … it was pretty bad,” Libby said. “She’s not in very good health, either. I thought hey, why not?”
Paying it forward
Lundquist was initially uncomfortable with the idea of receiving help. She still is, in fact: She said she spent her entire tax return on purchasing more than $4,500 worth of materials for the project because she “felt guilty” about getting help.
But as she’s reflected on the good fortune that has recently come her way, Lundquist can’t help but be thankful. The recommendations from posters on Facebook and the kindness of Libby are hard to fathom.
Construction on her new, all-metal roof began Tuesday morning. Libby expects it to be completely done on Thanksgiving Day.
“I’m more comfortable giving than I am with receiving,” Lundquist said. “But it’s come at a good time.”
Rinn can’t think of anyone more deserving of a roof than her friend of 30 years.
“She is a testament to the power of the human spirit, how we are much more than our body, our circumstances. She is a warrior,” Rinn said. “She’s very independent and always thinks of everyone first. This roof means so much to her. She would have never asked, but I’m so glad she was nominated by so many of the people that love her and (are) loved by her.”
Libby plans to continue paying it forward. He knows he can’t help everyone but is trying to fix as many homes as possible, including Lindsey Brewer’s. Brewer is a full-time student and single mother who had no previous interactions with Libby. To have a stranger offer free services was shocking.
“It was completely free. I offered to pay him (and) when I offered, he refused,” Brewer said. “He just asked that if I have any friends or family needing roofing work done that I give his name.”
In the future, he hopes to fix the roof at the Alano Club of Boise, a nonprofit gathering place for Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon groups.
“(I’m) just trying to make a difference,” he said.
Also true to form, Lundquist plans to take in more people in need once her house is in acceptable condition.
She hopes her story of lifelong generosity finally being returned inspires others to commit acts of kindness.
“I don’t expect to be noticed; I don’t really expect anything. But it’s nice when you are noticed for trying to be a good person,” Lundquist said. “You don’t do it expecting a return. But if you do get one, that’s great.”