Last year, Eyewitness News shared the story about a Brookfield family who lost everything after hiring a contractor to remodel their home.
It was after that story aired that a group of volunteers came together in hopes of getting the family back home, for free.
Last year, Carol Degen and her two children had lost hope.
“This is science fiction, this could be a science fiction movie. Except I lived it, and nothing is made up, this is what happened,” Degen said in an interview with Eyewitness News.
A contractor named Robert Janeksy at Town and Country Carpentry started what should have been a small kitchen and bath remodel, and before they knew it, they had paid thousands of dollars and put a mortgage on a home that had been free and clear.
They even said the contractor had put their life's possessions in storage and didn't pay the bill. Everything was auctioned off.
This all started in 2007, and they still can't go home.
Attorney John Tower represented the family for free and got them a $470,000 judgment against Janeksy.
It was good news, but it didn't get them home. That’s when the I-Team's story aired.
“I saw it on Facebook and I instantly shared it with all my friends who have a contractor background,” said volunteer Brianna Ruocco.
As she rallied her friends, Rick McCarty started a GoFundMe page to help his former classmate.
“I went to school with Billy and he lived in this house his whole life, and it was a shame that this contractor did what he did and I wanted to help him,” McCarty said.
Along with the Holland Family Foundation, who has helped the Degens with housing over the past 8 years, a volunteer movement was born.
“And when we got together, we're like an immovable force, we were running from the get-go. We have a lot of contractors to help out, and we're going to get them back in their home,” Ruocco and McCarty said.
People from across the state got involved, and for the first time, Carol Degen is starting to look at her lot like it could be home again soon.
“In my minds’ eye, I can tell where everything is,” Degen said.
There's a bank, civil and structural engineers, contractors, and even an architect involved.
More than 30 volunteers all doing it for free, with the hope of someday handing the Degens a key to their new house.
“It's a tough site, it's exciting though, it's challenging, but that's what's exciting about it,” said Kevin McQueen, of Architectural Design Alliance.
Bill Holland and the Holland Family Foundation are thrilled to see others joining their cause.
“This outcropping of volunteers is beyond imagination to the family, and we look forward to completing it for this family here,” Bill Holland said.
“I'm flabbergasted and thankful. I know it's going to happen. For a while, I didn't know, but I'm just so thankful,” Carol Degen said.
The hope is to have a final site plan and architectural drawings in place so construction can get underway later this year.
They're still looking for volunteers and donations.
All donations should go to Holland Family Foundation: Degen Project c/o Holland Family Foundation, 137 New Milford Road East, Bridgewater, CT 06752.
Additional volunteers should contact Pat Holland by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell 860-490-9276.
Eyewitness News reached out to Robert Janeksy but did not hear back.
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