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"Mayor of Elyria" Returns to Renovated Home: 'This Is The Best Christmas Present'

DENVER (CBS4) — A beloved member of the Elyria community has moved into her newly renovated home, two years after a contractor walked off the job.

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(credit: CBS)

Maria Casillas has lived on Race Street for more than 30 years. After she suffered a heart attack and stroke, her daughter, Martha, offered to move in and help. However, Maria's small home couldn't fit Martha's family.

"I suggested we add two rooms and a bathroom," said Martha. "We started looking for contractors and found one who didn't cost much. Now we know why."

They paid the contractor $67,000. The family's project began experiencing multiple delays over a two-year period. The contractor eventually abandoned the project, leaving the family without electricity, plumbing and a roof.

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(credit: Maria Casillas)

"All he did was knock down the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room. He did some concrete and framing, then he said all the money was gone," said Martha.

Martha looked into estimates to see how much additional work would cost, but it was more than most families could afford.

The news about Maria's home spread quickly.

"Eric from Aloha Builders, he was the first one to contact us. He said he would help us, he wasn't sure how then, but we wanted to help us," said Martha.

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Not only did Eric help, but he enlisted the help of others. Aloha Builders found local carpenters and roofers to volunteer their time. The Home Builders Foundation (HBF) stepped in to help complete the project, along with the assistance of 30 other companies.

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(credit: Maria Casillas)

"We provide home modifications for people with disabilities throughout the whole metro area," explained Brian Johnson of HBF. "Maria is central to this area. She's known as the mayor of Elyria! This house, for her kids, it was the center of their world when they were little. We're so happy to help get them back in."

The renovations cost about $150,000. Maria didn't pay a cent.

To thank the volunteers who helped rebuild her home, Maria and her family hosted a thank you dinner Thursday evening.

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(credit: CBS)

"This is the best Christmas present. This gave us hope. This gave my mom hope," said Martha. "When my mom saw it she cried. We couldn't be more thankful."

Maria says she had no interest in moving or staying with relatives. All she wanted was to live her little house, the house she raised ten children in.


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