JEANERETTE — Bert Grace and his mother Cindy have learned to live with less over the years, but recent water problems they couldn’t afford to fix have rallied the Iberia Parish community to step up and give the family a chance at some basic necessities.
Despite their income of about $800 a month, the Graces have a deep religious faith and still go out of their way to help others whenever they can.
Bert Grace attends Jeanerette government meetings regularly to stay updated on what’s happening in town, and also maintains a close relationship with local police and fire departments. He is even known to even buy packages of water when he can to donate to local public servants.
Although the Graces survive on very little, the two felt completely out of options earlier this month when a water leak was found at their Jeanerette home and saw the expensive bills that would come with fixing the issue.
Seeing it as his only option, Bert posted to social media for help. Kristi Daigle Boudreaux, who went to school with him and stays up-to-date with Jeanerette happenings, saw the post and decided to do something to help.
“I’m in the process of moving soon and I was shopping for appliances when I saw his post,” Boudreaux said. “I thought how could I do that when they’re in such a bind. I reached out and talked to him about it and we started to make plans.”
Boudreaux got the Graces in touch with Pipes and Plugs, who helped fix the $500 in repairs at no charge.
But Boudreaux looked at the Graces’ living conditions of and said she knew she could do more, and others began to reach out as well.
“When I met them I asked if I could go in the house, the waterline was the tip of the iceberg,” Boudreaux said. “I asked if I could walk around and I actually started crying, they’ve been without hot water for two years and they didn’t have an operable toilet.
“The house is basically rotting, the roof leaks. The tub and the shower don’t work, they boil water on a stove. One of the bathrooms is in such poor conditions Cindy doesn’t walk in there for fear she may fall through. It’s in really bad shape.”
After reaching out to United Way of Iberia, a Grace Fund was created by the non-profit to help raise money for home repairs for the family.
A Gofundme page also was created by another Good Samaritan to help the Graces and currently has more than $1,000 in donations.
Several public officials including Iberia Parish President Larry Richard stepped up to aid in giving resources to the project, as did other Iberia Parish council members.
Other problems the Graces were dealing with included a leaking roof, buckling walls and obvious rot on the exterior of the home. Shingles were missing, the house needed a paint job and the access ramp was very old and rotting. Boudreaux said all of the appliances need replacing. Bert’s mattress was very old and torn and Cindy sleeps in a chair due to her health, and needed a new one.
The plumber who inspected the house said the entire home needed to be replumbed. New toilets and tubs were needed and most likely a hot water tank.
“There’s the potential the home is beyond repair so we’re potentially going to make a decision with Cindy’s approval that we tear it down and put in a mobile home,” Boudreaux said. “The team will meet together and figure out what’s the next move.”
Boudreaux said she doesn’t plan to stop until the Graces have decent living conditions.
“I know that I could never have taken on a project like this alone,” she said. “Without the community this may not have been able to happen.”
Bert Grace said he’s felt extremely blessed by the whole experience.
“I didn’t know what to do and I know people need money for their own problems,” he said. “I’m just blessed that God came through.”
For more information on how to donate, join the “Help Me Help Bert & Ms. Cindy” Facebook group.