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South Washington County-style extreme makeover

Marathon workers, wearing T-shirts from Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, swarm around the Zimprich home during the make- over that includes installing gutters on the home. (Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner)

Standing outside a temporary storage pod in her front yard, teenager Elizabeth Zimprich couldn't believe her good fortune.

"I'm getting an actual room and there's no mold," she said.

Her brother, Matt, said his house is getting new flooring, paint and a new door.

"I like the free doughnuts," said Petey, the youngest Zimprich, eating one of the snacks available for volunteers.

Saturday, Oct. 18, was a big day for Deborah Zimprich, a single mother, who lives in Cottage Grove with her three children.

More than 70 volunteers from the Marathon Petroleum Company in St. Paul Park, teamed up with Rebuilding Together Twin Cities to rehabilitate the Zimprich home, which was damaged after a sewer backup that also caused mold throughout her basement.

But the south Washington County version of "extreme makeover" did a lot more than just repair the sewer backup damage.

Volunteer Joe Riley, union steward of Local 120 at the refinery, spent five weekends ahead of time preparing the house for the volunteers, according to Deborah.

Representatives from Rebuilding Together also spent time getting the house ready for the big day. They put everything from Elizabeth's sleeping space into a storage pod on the front lawn.

She now has a room with a walk-in closet, and dome light. It's a "real" bedroom with privacy from her brothers.

"My new room is pink," Elizabeth said.

Another large trash container in the driveway was full of moldy building material from the basement and all the shrubbery from the front and back yard that was ripped out and replaced with new plants, bushes, mulch and a new wrought-iron bench in the front yard.

Old appliances were replaced with energy-efficient ones.

Some of the window replacement was done that day and the rest will be done later, according to Les Bischoff, Rebuilding Together Twin Cities director of project services.

Workers also built ramps to make it easier for Deborah to move about on days when she is confined to a wheelchair. She suffers from an autonomic nervous disorder that can cause seizures.

Deborah said, in addition to being grateful for the help of Rebuilding Together Twin Cities and Marathon, that she is thankful for support from the congregation at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in St. Paul Park.

Petey attends St. Andrews School. Elizabeth and Matt attend St. Croix Lutheran School.

The cost of project was $12,000, according to Bischoff, but many items are donated to the organization in addition to financial donations from the American Petroleum Institute and Marathon.

The Zimprich makeover is the sixth project, nationwide, that Marathon has participated in, according to Jaime De La Cruz, human resources manager at the St. Paul Park plant.

"If it wasn't for their involvement, this can't happen," Bischoff said.

"It's hard to put into words how grateful I am," Deborah said, adding her family has had financial difficulties.

"The one thing we have is this house," she said. "When everything gets crazy, we have our sanctuary."

Marathon also put up a large tent in the Zimprich back yard with tables and chairs. Volunteers supplied and cooked lunch on a grill.

"You see God everyday when you see these people," Deborah said.

Judy Spooner can be reached at

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600