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Rescue Fund: Big Stone Gap man gets by with help from his buddies

Stephen Igo • Dec 2, 2018 at 12:00 PM

BIG STONE GAP — With all that Billy lacks, Billy does have a house. And Billy has buds. Lots of buds.

It's no surprise, though, that the 44-year-old with a heart as big as Big Stone Gap would have friends all over town clear to Keokee in the neighboring county. The recipient of disability assistance since childhood includes no disability for unabashed friendliness offered with no strings attached or expected.

Billy prefers talking about what he has than what he needs, and that means he talks about friends.

"I barely can make it monthly to monthly on my check. But, people help me," he said. "Now, sure, it's a case that my (heating/AC) duct work, where I can't hardly get up under the house to get to it anyway, back under the kitchen, needs work. And, it's costing too much, so? You pay your bills, and watch close to have enough for groceries after the bills are paid. So it's what I can do to get by monthly to monthly."

Billy lives in a house once owned by his grandfather, and like all homes, particularly as time starts to weigh evermore heavily on the framework, has had and continues to accumulate issues.

"Oh, but I have buddies," he said. "Lots of buddies. They've helped me fix the place up a whole lots by and by. I've lived by myself since my uncle died in 2008. This house was my grandpa's, and he gave it to my uncle, and my uncle gave it to me." His parents passed away the same year 21 years ago, he said, making a point with a touch of extra pride that "my dad was a coal miner and a Vietnam veteran."

Billy considers himself a fortunate fellow, and rightfully so, because he has "all my buddies in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Lots of buddies," including "two special people up Keokee" — Dennis and Jenny Leonard — "who call me every night to check on me and ask if I need or want anything."

His hot water heater recently needed a pop-off valve replacement "and my buddy (Ryan Austin and Ryan's dad, Tim) helped me fix it and got it going. The bathroom floor is starting to give around the tub but I try not to worry anybody too much about me. The most I would like about this being in the newspaper and all is that it isn't that it's just about me, but to help other people out who needs it and stuff."

For Thanksgiving dinner, Billy allowed that "I'm going to my buddy's house" adding "I got three or four places I go to, to eat." He also said the ladies at the Wise County Department of Social Services, including Sandy Smith "and all them up there at DSS" are his buddies.

The Appalachia Service Project (ASP) built a handicap access ramp and addressed some other maintenance issues at his house. ASP volunteers scrawled a salutation and signed a 2x4 piece of lumber he proudly displays on a mantel. And he said GAP Lumber is a buddy, too, a local business apparently filled to the rafters with Billy's buds.

"GAP Lumber has been good to me," he said. "There's some good people out there at GAP Lumber."

Billy might be strapped financially and a very few other ways, but he's about as rich as anybody can possibly be when it comes to friends. He said that's what he hopes this Rescue Fund article might help achieve for so many others out there this holiday season.

"Everybody can be buddies for everybody else, if they want to," he said. "It's just wanting to, that's all."

The Times News Rescue Fund aims to provide some of the region’s neediest residents with extra food for Christmas. The fund is dependent on the generosity of Times News readers, and no gift is too small.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Times-News Rescue Fund, 701 Lynn Garden Dr., Kingsport, TN, 37660.

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