Everyone experiences ups and downs.
Renowned artist and disabled Vietnam veteran John Jennings and his wife Sandy Jennings are well aware of the blessings they have experienced throughout their lives. They always took great joy in returning these blessings and helping others.
“We’ve always been the givers,” Sandy said. “We donate to nursing homes, everyone in the rooms has a signed thumbprint, children’s hospitals, Ronald McDonald House. We do those kinds of things, but now we’re able to graciously receive. is easier to give.”
“We’ve been so blessed in our lives with so many things,” John said.
The Post Falls couple hit one of life’s valleys earlier this year. They were notified that the house they had lived in for more than nine years had been sold by a landlord with whom they had a good relationship to a property management agency.
The new lease required an additional security deposit, new fees for keeping their dog in the house, and no guarantee that the rent would not increase. The couple, who value their privacy, also could not be assured that they would have 24 hours notice when someone from the agency wanted to show the house to potential buyers.
“Reading everything in there, we couldn’t go ahead and sign the lease,” Sandy said. “All of these things add up, and we knew it just wasn’t going to work for us.”
Sandy is a part-time caregiver outside the home. John is disabled and feels such extreme pain throughout his body that he is sometimes unable to leave his bed.
“When I have a bad day, I use a walker,” he said. “On a really good day, I’m on a cane.”
John was a reconnaissance photographer and served in the military for four years. He saw the fight and survived the bayonet. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When the 4th of July rolls around, I’m just a hopeless case,” he said. “I participated in some battles in Vietnam, but I chose to try to look at the good in life. We don’t have enough time on this earth for the good things in life not to evolve .
Overpriced and uprooted, the Jennings had to find a new home and a way to move out on short notice.
“We were at our wit’s end,” Sandy said. “My husband had all these health issues, this and that. We were short on money.”
Sandy, as tough as the veterans in her family, did what she had to do – she went to Post Falls American Legion Post 143 and asked for help.
THE AMERICAN LEGION COMMITS
Warrant Officer Tim Shaw immediately sprang into action when Sandy arrived at the station.
“They had to buy this house so they could move out,” Shaw said. “It consumed a lot of the cash they had on hand and they had to pay closing costs out of pocket. It strained their cash flow.”
She and John have found a home, with the help of a loan from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and a real estate agent determined to help them find a roof over their heads.
“In the midst of the absolute worst time to find a home,” John said. “He helped us do that.”
Then the daunting task of packing up and moving nearly a decade of their lives. John’s condition did not even allow him to grasp or lift objects, Sandy was alone.
Not for a long time.
Shaw called several local moving companies for assistance.
“I was on my last phone call for the movers and deep down I’m thinking, ‘Next phone call I’m going to make is to Sandy to tell him I have nothing,'” Shaw said.
Enter the Post Falls Hakuna Matata Moving Company, owned by Cody Lawson.
Shaw informed Lawson of the Jennings’ situation and Lawson was on board. Hakuna Matata helps with the move, free of charge.
“Cody calls me back and I tell him the story and he says, ‘I’ll do it,'” Shaw said. “I said, ‘You won’t regret it. “”
In mid-June, Lawson and his team began carefully packing John’s art prints, which have been stacked in the couple’s basement for some time. John is an oil and acrylic artist who creates seascape masterpieces and spellbinding seascapes that transport the viewer to colorful scenes filled with animals, sunsets, palm trees and more .
These prints of John’s works, which are a source of income for the family, require loving care in transport. Lawson and his team carefully packed the stacks on a pallet to ensure no prints or lithographs were damaged.
Lawson said he wanted to help because he knows what it’s like to be stuck.
“You reap what you sow,” Lawson said. “You give a little and it comes full circle. I believe in karma.”
He said it was important to support the locals.
“With the crazy way things are, you can’t forget your people,” Lawson said. “A lot of locals are struggling, especially with the housing market. It’s sad to see. You just help where you can, because I’m sure someone really needs it.
THE HOUSING CRISIS AFFECTS EVERYONE — EVEN VETERANS
The Jennings have been customers of Newby-ginnings of northern Idaho for several years, through which they have become good friends with Newby-ginnings founder and executive director, Theresa Hart.
More than 5,000 families are registered with Newby-ginnings, which provides household items and necessities to military and veteran families. Soaring house prices are crushing many of Hart’s nonprofit helpers.
“We’ve helped a lot of people,” she said. “I had a conversation with someone this week. They said their rent went up $500. How can they legally do this to a family? These families are overrated and they have nowhere to go They can’t pay their rent, let alone a new place, when you have a security deposit, first and last month’s rent.
“We work with a lot of homeless families,” she said. “We have families living in their vehicles or in motorhomes. It’s terrible.”
Hart said Newby-ginnings helps up to 10 newly housed veterans each week, consistent with what it has seen since its inception in 2013.
It is the inability to meet current housing needs that frustrates Hart the most.
“When we have a family of veterans in need, whether it’s housing, furniture, or clothing, if that’s something we can’t provide, I love being the plaque. It’s a place where they can come and we can connect them with someone on the other end who can help them,” Hart said. “With housing, I can’t do that. housing, I feel helpless. We have emergency financial assistance, but it’s very limited. A lot of them are struggling.”
She said she likes those who are able to help John and Sandy when needed.
“We are a team,” Hart said. “When I see other organizations or companies stepping up, I feel like they’re joining the team. It’s so great to have someone you can rely on.”
She said no one person or organization can do this alone.
“But when you have a whole team of people tackling these issues, it’s encouraging and it makes me super, super proud of our community. That’s the main thing.”
ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE
Lawson and his team will return to pack and move the rest of John and Sandy’s belongings before they are forced to leave their home at the end of July.
“I don’t know how we would do anything without Tim and the American Legion,” Sandy said. “He coordinated all of this. I feel like crying.”
John said one of the biggest things to come out of this whole situation is how she shed light on what it means to help others.
“It’s so important to me,” John said. “I’m so very grateful and thankful.”
While sitting on his back patio, visiting with Sandy and Shaw, John shared how much it means to him to help others and be the sunshine in their lives.
“Any little thing I can do to shine a little ray of sunshine in someone else’s life,” he said. “They do it for me all the time, and I’m more than happy to help others.”
He also shared his perspective on how to get through tough times, quoting an original poem.
“What has always been will never be if you can change the things you see,” he said. “It’s a point of being positive.”
The Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center plans to host an art exhibition featuring the works of John Jennings on September 23-24. The JACC will donate the space. John and Sandy will receive all proceeds from the show.
“I believe the arts are healing, uplifting and necessary,” said JACC Director Darla Dreyer. “The JACC is helping a local artist. That’s what we’re doing.”