By Sierra Poore
Linda Rhodes repeated one phrase as she walked through her newly renovated and decorated Mesa home for the first time in December.
“I’m so overwhelmed,” the 61-year-old Army veteran and cancer survivor said.
The home was a gift from Patty and Ron Gottshalk, a Gilbert couple and cofounders of a nonprofit called Word In Motion, who had originally bought the house with the intention of renovating it and “flipping” it.
Instead, they decided to help out Rhodes, whom they had met at Evident Life Church in Gilbert.
“We have it customized so beautifully for her,” Patty Gottshalk says. “It’s fully furnished. We totally gutted it and redid everything.”
With ramps on both sides of the house and a walk-in bathtub to help Rhodes get around as she deals with an injured left foot, the house includes many touches aimed at making her life easier – a full-body shower, lift chair, exercise bike and memory-foam mattress.
Everything inside the home was replaced or redone – from the curtains and blinds to the real wood floors, Ron Gottshalk said.
Patty noted it was even decorated with Rhodes in mind. Her favorite color – blue – was incorporated into many of its accents. A sign was posed on the house that reads “Linda Rd.” Even her refrigerator was stocked with her favorite foods.
“It’s been awesome how we’ve just found different things that we know Linda loves,” Patty says. “We’ve kind of gone over the top.”
Rhodes, who said she is self-employed and makes money buying and selling items on eBay, now even has her own room to conduct her online business. “We made an eBay room and set up a staging area for photographs and everything she needs,” Patty explains.
Jim Cionci, one of the volunteers who helped with the six-month renovation, said he worked through the summer without air conditioning since a new HVAC unit wasn’t installed until fall.
The Gottshalks bought the house in May, but it wasn’t until August that Patty and Ron decided to give it away. “A couple of us just felt that way,” Patty says of her team. “We decided that that’s how we operate our business. We put people before profit.”
Word In Motion, which was founded in 2015, is a philanthropic company that “is all about helping people achieve their talents and discover ways they can be successful in who they are,” she says.
While Patty said this is Word In Motion’s first project that has gone to someone, it will certainly not be its last. “We’ll have other projects like this as we go along because that’s what we do,” she says.
Changing their purpose for the house also changed people’s attitudes toward working on it, Patty says. “It was really cool because we had a team of volunteers helping and once we realized we weren’t going to flip it for profit, everyone got more motivated and started doing things with this woman in mind,” she says.
Patty says one of the greatest things about the gift for Linda is the impact it has had on the community. “It’s been such a great way to bind people together,” she says. “What’s really awesome is some of the neighbors who’ve seen us work on this for six months have come over and helped in different ways, too.”
In addition to the thousands of dollars Patty and Ron contributed to the home, the Gottshalks said almost everything else was made possible through donations. “We have about 40 people who have volunteered, and we have a number of people, too, who have given money to pay for the expenses for this,” Patty says.
In addition to receiving donations from people to pay for expenses associated with the project, Ron says they have also received money from people for Rhodes specifically. “People have also been giving her checks and cash,” he says. “We have an account for her so not only is she going to get the house, but we want to give her some cash on top of that to help her for the first month or two.”
Patty says she is not sure exactly how much money Linda will receive. Rhodes said she has only ever lived in an apartment and has wanted a home for herself for ages but “never thought it could ever happen.”
Rhodes, who said she served as a cook for the army in Giessen, Germany, for three years, has survived three different types of cancer – including uterine and skin cancer, and cancer in lymph nodes beside her left kidney.
While Patty says Rhodes does not have much herself, she is one of the most giving people she knows. Rhodes takes note of what people like, so she can give it to them later on, she says.
“It’s not just giving someone a gift,” Patty says. “She personalizes everything and then she makes everyone laugh. Who doesn’t need someone in their life like that?”
Patty says Rhodes spends a lot of her time volunteering for a variety of charities, including Jesus Cares Ministries, The Salvation Army, Feed My Starving Children, Operation Christmas Child, Angel Tree, Evident Life Thrift Store and Mesa Aglow Lighthouse. “It’s a joy just helping people do things,” Rhodes says.
Patty adds: “She volunteers more than anyone I know. She works harder than most people with full-time jobs. This woman just gives to people all the time and never expects anything in return.”
Patty also says she hopes the project will teach others “to be aware of the people around them.”
“There are people everywhere who are almost invisible, and when you really go out of your way to help someone, it’s really incredible,” she says. “If more people were doing this, it would be so inspiring.”
Added Ron: “We just want people to know not to give up on their dreams. Some may have long ago gave up on them because they thought they were too big, but you never know what’s going to happen.”