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The home being built for Justin and Trudy Sherman at 1371 Branch Lane in Show Low should be finished by the first week of December if all goes as planned.

It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to raise a house — and that’s exactly what White Mountain residents have been doing to build a home for a local family that has already suffered enough tragedy.

Justin and Trudy Sherman — along with their four children — were left homeless when their house burned in February. And for the past 18 months, Justin has been battling Stage Four cancer, which is now at a point where treatment has been stopped and he has been put on end-of-life care through Hospice. His doctors don’t give him much more time, which the family is resigned to as his health becomes more fragile every day.

The White Mountain community is now working tirelessly to get the Sherman family into a new home in time for Christmas, so they will be able to be together and make memories for what they anticipate will be Justin’s last Christmas.

“As fast as it’s coming along, I think it’s going to be done the first week in December,” said Ryan Ellsworth, a local developer who stepped up to enlist volunteers to complete the project after the unexpected death of his cousin, Bishop Ethan Ellsworth. The latter, who was bishop of the Show Low Creek Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was a man known for his generosity and spirit of service; his first counsel in the ward was Justin Sherman. Ellsworth became heavily involved with the Sherman family after their home burned and was donating his own time to build them a new home at cost when he died in October at the age of 53.

“The Shermans have been living in one of my rental homes,” said Ryan Ellsworth, who owns 180 separate apartments here. “But we really wanted to get them into a home of their own before Christmas, so they have time there together before Justin passes away.”

The community has rallied around the family, as have local businesses that have donated supplies and service providers who’ve donated their skills and expertise.

“Kay Supply donated a $10,000 roof,” he said. “Complete Electric donated $10,000 worth of electrical work. ABC Supply is donating the drywall. Neese & Sons Plumbing is donating plumbing. Ed Miller is donating heating and air conditioning. Perkins Cinders is donating cinders. CONCO Concrete donated concrete. Hardcore Construction finished laying the concrete. Lowe’s is discounting all the material we need. Home Depot donated cabinets.”

In addition to the construction of the four-bedroom, two-bath house at 1371 Branch Lane that they are eternally grateful for, the Sherman family was recently able to buy furniture for the new home thanks to a large donation from a generous giver.

“Last week, they were able to go down to the valley and buy $11,000 worth of brand-new furniture because somebody donated the money for it,” Ellsworth said.

Although he already knew that this is a giving, sharing, tight-knit community, Ellsworth said he’s overwhelmed at the way so many people have banded together to help a family they may not even know personally.

“It’s mind-boggling to me,” he said. “I talked to the county inspector a couple of weeks ago and he comes out on a Saturday evening to do the inspection so we could pour the concrete. The people who make the trusses were so backed up, but they stopped everything to build the trusses for us.”

The recipients of the project are also amazed at what the community is doing for them.

“The progress that’s been going on has just blown me away,” Trudy Sherman said. “This White Mountain community just coming together like this for a family in need — I’m so grateful to live in a community that puts others first.”

Her husband, who is fighting colon cancer, is very weak, she said. He is on round-the-clock oxygen, a pain medication pump and he suffers from severe pain every day.

“He got diagnosed about six years ago and they gave him around six months to live,” Trudy said. “He was already at Stage Four then so he’s definitely a fighter, and we’re hoping he’ll at least live until Christmas.”

In addition to their gratitude for what community members have done and are doing for them, the Shermans appreciate people’s prayers, she said.

Anyone wishing to make a financial donation to the family or help with the building project can contact Ryan Ellsworth at 520-709-1192 for more information.

Becky Knapp is a lifelong journalist who has worked at newspapers in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Florida. Reach the reporter at bknapp@wmicentral.com

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