SKOWHEGAN — If Janet Martin cried often because she felt helpless to do anything about the mold problem in her trailer, she now cries tears of joy for the help that has come her way.

Martin, 76, discovered mold several weeks ago in her mobile home on Big Bird Street as a result of leaking windows, and her insurance company said it could not help because the problem had been developing for a while. At a loss for what to do, she called more than 22 agencies to find out if any resources were available, since she is on a fixed income and cannot afford the costly repair.

Some people never called back. Others referred her to various entities that offered no help.

When a column appeared in the June 6 Morning Sentinel about her plight, Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, whom she had not called, was at her doorstep, seeking solutions.

McCabe said Martin is a good example of problems facing central Maine’s senior population and the lack of resources available to them, particularly those who want to stay in their homes.

In Martin’s case, area residents and at least one contractor contacted McCabe to see if they could help. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office also contacted him to assist, and the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program sent people to look at the mold damage Tuesday and are trying to ascertain what needs to be done to fix it.

A 25-year-old man who works at Wal-Mart knocked on Martin’s door and asked if there was anything he could do, and if so, to please let him know.

“Then he came back later with gift cards from Hammond Lumber totaling $90 that his parents had given him,” Martin said Tuesday afternoon in her kuchen. “I said, ‘I don’t want to take your gift certificates. Your mum and dad gave them to you.’ That was nice. It got me crying again.”

A widow, Martin worked hard all her life, including caring for 22 foster children.

She survived two bouts with cancer and both of her knees have been replaced. She also has four brain tumors that must be monitored closely and suffers from high blood pressure.

She has been suffering from headaches, a sore throat and stuffiness because of the mold and stays mostly in her bedroom with the door closed to avoid exposure to it.

McCabe visited Martin on Tuesday to update her on his search for resources.

He said he had spoken with several people who wanted to donate money, so a fund has been set up at Bangor Savings Bank.

THROUGH THE CRACKS

McCabe said Martin is an example of a person who has slipped through the cracks, particularly seniors whose issues do not fit the requirements of specific programs aimed at assisting people.

He said a person at one government office he spoke to suggested Martin leave her home and try to get Section 8 housing, but her mobile home a comfortable place that she has lived in for a long time and she takes good care of it, he said.

“I think as a state with an aging population, trying to find resources to help people stay in their homes should be a No. 1 priority,” McCabe said. “You have a home here. There should be help to fix it. With a little bit of help, people can stay in their homes and stay on top of things. They can keep things manageable.”

He said there is not a lot of housing stock in the area, and he is exhausting all avenues to help Martin with her problem. “I think the potential for private help is out there, and there seems to be a lot of interest.”

Seven years ago, Martin replaced all 11 windows in the mobile home because they were in bad shape. She found a contractor to install the windows through the store where she’d bought them. In March, her daughter-in-law was helping her clean some items out of her sewing room, and they discovered large patches of mold on the carpet under the window of the 7-by-11-foot room.

Martin called her homeowner’s insurance company and was told there was nothing the company could do because the mold had not developed recently — it had been developing for a while, she said earlier this month. The insurance representative also said the carpet would have to be removed in the sewing room and possibly the floor and insulation as well, but it would have to be done by a licensed person. Other windows in the trailer also are leaking water, she said.

She could not find the contractor recently when she tried searching for him. McCabe said he spoke with the owner of the store where Martin bought the windows and he wants to help.

“He was very interested in seeing a solution is found,” McCabe said.

NO ISOLATED SITUATION

A contractor from the Waterville area called McCabe, also wanting to help, and said he was booked with work but would set aside some time in August if necessary. McCabe said depending on what KVCAP comes up with, he may take the contractor up on his offer.

McCabe said finding resources to help people can be challenging. Many seniors find it hard to ask for help, and when they do and their calls go unanswered, it’s additionally challenging for them.

“I think that as a state, we definitely need more resources, especially in central Maine,” he said. “One of the things that’s frustrating for me is, I keep thinking of Jan’s situation and it’s not an isolated situation.”

He said many seniors living in their homes face difficulties, and he sees that as he travels around Somerset County. He cited a couple he met who had no hot water for two months, and their heating assistance was not kicking in.

“This was a situation where we helped connect them to a local funding source through a local church,” he said. “You find these creative solutions — private citizens who are willing to help, nongovernment entities willing to help. It’s problematic sometimes when people’s issues don’t fit the parameters of a program.”

A quiet, modest woman, Martin said she is humbled by the response from people wanting to help her and grateful for McCabe’s assistance.

“I would still be calling people on my own if he hadn’t shown up,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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