Minnesota Plumbing Company Helps Rebuild Lives

Meet the couple whose community outreach made a difference for a family who lost their son to bullying and daughter to suicidal depression.
Minnesota Plumbing Company Helps Rebuild Lives
Marsha and Gary Wilde, who lost their son to bullying and daughter to suicidal depression, received a bathroom makeover in 2015 as part of T 'N G Plumbing's Pay it Forward program.

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Note: This is the second of a three-part part series on T ‘N G Plumbing in Dexter, Minnesota, owners Todd and Gina Grundmeier and their Pay it Forward project – one family’s response to an outpouring of community support.

Todd and Gina Grundmeier met in 2000 and were married in 2003. Gina was the office manager at the plumbing company where Todd was an apprentice.

“I always joke about bossing him around when we met, and now, running the company, I get to ‘boss’ him around more,” she says. “November we will celebrate 13 years.”

Todd has two children – a son, 16, and daughter, 14. Gina, a “stay-at-home mom” when not taking care of the office, has a 21-year-old daughter with schizophrenia, who talks openly about her disease and her journey of faith through God, and a 15-year-old daughter with high-functioning autism.

In her off-hours, Gina is a volunteer for the Parent WarmLine (a parenting resource center), an advocate for PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) – a group created by parents of children with disabilities to help other parents – and is involved with NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness).

“I’m a huge advocate for mental illness awareness and work hard to help lessen the stigma that comes with it,” she says.

Todd and Gina began T ‘N G Plumbing in February 2011 – three months after a fire destroyed their home and possessions.

Three years later, T ‘N G was voted Best Plumber of Mower County by readers of the Austin Daily Herald.

“When told that, I was kind of taken back,” Gina says of the inspiration for the Pay it Forward program.

“The idea was to find a way to give back to the community that thinks highly of you,” she says. “We got notified of the award in July, and in September we were doing the project. September is not a slow time for plumbers or anyone else, but I just had it in my head. Since the concept was there, I wanted to move with it. We thought that there are a lot of members in the community who needed things but don’t always have the ability to do it for themselves, be it physically or financially. It’s just kind of a way to give back in the community where it’s needed.”

In 2015, Todd and Gina helped Marsha and Gary Wilde. The couple lost their 15-year-old son to bullying, a daughter to suicidal depression and daughter-in-law to cancer.

Marsha works in a dialysis unit in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and Gary is a mechanic. They’re good jobs, but money remains tight. Marsha has had two knee surgeries and Gary has back problems.

Their bathroom was small and in need of tender loving care — the shower was broken and leaked into the basement.

Here is their story:

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Todd and Gina,
 
Hello; my name is Katherine Wilde, youngest daughter of Gary and Marsha Wilde of Austin. I am not even quite sure how to write you all of this without crying, but I know that all the heartache my family, especially my parents, have dealt with is more than deserving of something as wonderful as a new bathroom. I also understand that there are soooooo many other people that could also use this as well. So thank you for taking the time to hear my life story.

Like I stated, I am the youngest child of five, with only my brother, sister and me still here. It all starts with my sister Mandy. Six months after I was born, she was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4. She was in and out of the hospital for appointments, being sick and having treatments done for over two years. She lost her hair, told her story to strangers, stayed strong and BEAT IT!! Throughout all of this, bills accumulated and struggles began — to keep up on payments for the hospital, and other things as well — for my parents. They worked hard, kept going because they knew it was all worth it to have their daughter still here. It was a long haul, but they got through it like they do so many other things. I could not imagine watching your child go through all of that at such a young age, but my parents kept her positive and made her a fighter. Mandy is now a 23-year cancer survivor, thanks to research and the help of so many wonderful doctors! We are grateful to be able to still have her here and share memories with, but it does not stop my parents from worrying, always making sure she gets to her yearly visits, no matter the cost. My parents are truly amazing people and I just hope all of the things they have dealt with in their life can show others that even if life’s knocking you down, you keep getting up, you keep proving you can show the world that life can be amazing, even going through rough patches. Always seeing something positive in a negative — but this only is the beginning.
 
When I was 9 years old, I lost one of my brothers, Shane, who was 15 at the time. He took his own life, left my parents a note apologizing for doing it but could not stand being bullied and picked on anymore. I woke up to my parents screaming at my brother to wake up and my mother saying, “I love you my baby boy” over and over. I was still young and didn't understand what was happening; everything was crashing down in my life. My parents were so lost in this sea of hurt; I have never seen such sorrow in someone’s eyes. I had to watch my mom break down at his funeral and so many others. The church was so packed, yet everything felt so lonely. Still, my parents stood us children up and held us together even though they could not help themselves, nor knew how to. Watching the years pass after his death and how much my mother showed us love and the power of God, even though she too had her doubts, was empowering. My parents kept our faith strong and taught us that even though such bad things happen, you still have to have faith that God will give you the strength and knowledge to grow from it. I went through fourth and fifth grade being bullied because of my brother’s death. I was being treated like he was and was feeling how low he felt, yet I still had the strength to conquer the day because of my wonderful parents! I moved on to Lyle schools and did so wonderful there, even won an award for writing about bullying in school. My parents gave me the strength to tell my story of being bullied and how it affected my brother, and my family, and now I will share it again with you two. I myself feel like this is a crazy story and it cannot be true, oh how much I wish it was not. To this day I still see the hurt in their eyes and the lost feelings they have, and it only makes me want to love them even more.
 
Two years ago, in July, I almost lost my mother to a heart attack. I got a phone call from my sister saying she was being flown to Mayo; that’s all I knew! I had never been so scared or lost in my entire life. At that moment I was feeling what my parents had felt for the last 12 years missing my brother. I broke down into uncontrollable sobs of empathy, sadness, worry and longing. I NEEDED MY MOTHER! I was only 21. I didn't and still don't know how to live without her! She is my rock, my hero; how was I suppose to deal with this! Freaking out wasn’t getting me anywhere and I knew my mom needed me, thanking the Lord everyday that when I got up she was awake!!! My mom was alive and talking! They ended up putting a stint in an artery that was blocked 100 percent and were keeping an eye on one that had a 40 percent blockage. She stayed for about a week for monitoring, but got out with strict rules to relax and take care of herself. My mother doesn't know how to do either of those things; she is always too busy doing something or worrying about someone. She loves to be busy doing anything with us kids and her grandchildren. It was very hard for her, but she too got through this! My mom survived a widowmaker as they called it; she is here for reasons, and I know she is a blessing. This only gets more painful to type to you guys. Almost two years ago, in November, my parents lost another child, my sister Misty. She was about to turn 36.

She had been battling with depression and suicidal thoughts for many years. Throughout those years I had saved her life over 10 times. My parents tried so hard to show her love, compassion and understanding. She was my mom’s best friend; they spent every day together. The last night we saw Misty, we were celebrating my niece’s birthday at the Bruins hockey game. Everyone had a good time. She was laughing and smiling, really seemed to be enjoying the game. That night, she went home and took a bunch of pills; this time I didn’t find her in time; she was gone. I have no way of explaining the feelings I had, calling 911 was hard enough. Waiting for the officers to show up I heard my mom’s voice and instantly went into protective mode and had to hold my mom up. I never want anyone to have to see their parents that way nor have to tell them that their daughter is gone. My parents went through this once 12 years prior, how was I going to get them through this? I showered them with love, compassion and empathy. I was their rock this time, and I knew they needed it. They have been through more heartache than I could ever imagine, yet our hearts were torn even more a week after her death. My brother’s wife of 10 years was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. She had beat it three years prior so we all held on to the hope of her getting through it this time. We always try to spend every Sunday together as a family; yes, all of this has brought us closer than I could have imagined! We helped her fight through her rough days and watched as the cancer took over her body. I watched my parents empathize with my brother and his wife. My mother tried keeping her strong and positive, always offering a helping hand. It takes a pretty strong family to help their close family die peacefully; fulfilling her wishes and wants, keeping her happy even through the darkness of knowing she was not going to make it. I then watched my parents hold my brother up at the funeral and be his rock, giving him encouraging words as they walked through the church full of people. My parents are the most kind, nurturing and giving people because they know how badly life can hurt, and they NEVER want anyone to ever have to feel the same pain they went through.

My parents both work VERY hard. My mother works in a dialysis unit in Albert Lea and my dad is a mechanic for South West Sales. Seeing as they have good jobs, they still struggle at times; a lot to do with paying hospital bills, funerals, besides whatever life has thrown their way. Whatever savings they had is gone from paying for all of these things. They will be retirement age soon, which is hard to deal with when they have little to live on. No matter what though, they never denied any of us help with things we needed. They worked hard to provide for us kids and still help if needed. With Mayo changing their healthcare and other things around; by the time my parents retire, they will have no healthcare. So now they must try to save even extra to make sure they can afford it. I am not sure how my siblings and I could have gotten this far without our mom and dad. They have shown us so much support, guidance, love and a home! My parent’s house is where we gather and their bathroom is in desperate need of some TLC! They have lived there since 1990, so it has many memories good and bad, but with my parents getting older and my mom having had two knee surgeries, and my dad with back problems; it is not the most efficient bathroom for them! I want to see them be able to grow old in their home and to live there as long as possible. I feel if anyone deserves this, it is my parents. I do not know anyone who would be more thankful and appreciative of this than them! For people who give and give without expecting anything in return, I feel it may be about time to see some positive things happen for them! To stay positive, even through the hard times, even when nothing good is coming their way; it leads to a very genuine heart to get a gift like this. I can only hope and pray they may be gifted with a functional bathroom and that they can grow old in their home together. I honestly could keep going on but I know you have many more to read. I am so thankful to have seen this contest and that I had the courage to tell you my story. Again, thank you both for your time. It warms my heart to see people paying it forward! May God bless you both!

Katherine E. Wilde

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From among hundreds of nomination letters, the Wildes were chosen for the remodeling project.

“The bathroom was gutted and entire floor and beams replaced,” Gina says. “We installed a new tankless water heater, water softener and furnace. This project was approximately $45,000 by the time it was done — not a penny cost for the family.”

See the video from KAAL TV:

Join us on Monday for Part 3 of the series as we learn more about the Todd and Gina, their Pay it Forward program and the impact it made in 2014 for a man paralyzed from the waist down.



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