Love your neighbor.

Meet Debbie & Michael


As we approach a time of giving thanks this season, ask yourself, “Would I still be thankful if everything I owned was taken away from me?” A fire burned their home in April 2016, now Michael and Debbie struggle to recover. Even with the loss of everything they own, including their home, Michael and Debbie bless each person they come across and are grateful for the people who have entered their lives since the fire.

Their home sits on the southside of Indianapolis. The small bungalow built by Debbie's father-in-law in the 1940's draws no attention from the thousands of commuters passings it daily on their way to and from work. The outside of the house is similar to the other homes that line the street. The inside however, is far from similar. After the fire, it had to be completely gutted. The fire and smoke damage destroyed everything in the home—walls, floors, and ceiling.

Debbie, 56, has spent her entire life on the southside of Indianapolis, attending Manual High School, and spending time at Garfield Park. Her mom instilled the value of hard work in her at a young age. She learned she needed to work hard for what she wanted. As a child, Debbie went door to door selling produce and also cut grass—anything to make money and help support her family.

Debbie dropped out of school so she could work more hours, but soon realized that her inability to read and write was keeping her from getting a better paying job. "I worked at White Castle, but can't read and write, so that didn't last too long.” Today, Debbie’s full-time job is caretaker to her partner, Michael. Michael is in a wheelchair, on dialysis three times a week, and requires blood transfusions every 2-3 months.

Julie Niec, a caseworker for Neighborlink and a retired social worker, was introduced to Michael and Debbie after they lost their home and now drives the mission to help them recover. Julie wants to help because she sees Debbie's hard work and believes she deserves more in life.

"Debbie works so hard to make it through life," says Julie. "Debbie's story is different than others, because she's not afraid to work hard for what she wants. She's a little person, she's small and not muscle-bound, but she's delightful to talk to. There's a chance her husband might lose part of his foot, but Debbie keeps going. I mean she just keeps going."

Neighborlink is attempting to help Michael and Debbie get back into their home before severe winter weather, but needs your help. Julie says "There's no other group that would have taken on management of a situation like this (coordinating volunteers and donations), I don't think there'd be much of a chance that they could be back in this home."

In her years as a caseworker, Julie has seen everything, but Debbie stands out to her. Julie recommends putting yourself in their position, " had little to begin with and then a fire takes your home and you have no resources. Debbie thought she had insurance, she was paying on it, but it was not there. What would that be like? No home, no resources, no place to live, no possibilities, and have a husband who is debilitated. If you were in this position, what would you need, what would you want, what would you ask of people?” 

Julie hopes that Michael and Debbie will not have to spend another holiday outside of their home. She says, "Maybe this could be a part of your Thanksgiving or Christmas, giving to this family. Debbie is the caregiver, she's always taking care of others and not herself. ...The most important thing is that these are very deserving people, and we need to be better aware of those who have contributed and have been wonderful citizens but have run into trouble that they cannot handle on their own, and this is something we can reach out and do for them."

Michael and Debbie are in need of almost everything, but if you can provide all or part of the items on the list below, it will help Neighborlink reach their goal of getting them back into their home.

Financial needs:

  • Drywall - $560
  • Handicapped bathroom $3000
  • Kitchen - $950
  • Flooring - $750
  • Insulation - $985

Item Donations:

  • Furniture (all kinds)
  • Lighting fixtures and lamps
  • Bedding, blankets and towels
  • Living room table and lamps
  • Dishes, silverware, cookware, kitchen towels, dishcloths, small kitchen appliances, and other kitchen items, bath towels, lamps, sheets (queen and twin) blankets, curtains vacuum, cleaning items (mop, broom, etc).

Make a financial donation here or email if you have items to donate.

We would also like to recognize the businesses who have contributed labor, supplies, expertise, and more to this project, THANK YOU!