Dean Esposito: The Heat (and Hammer) of a Carpenter

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After a Thanksgiving fire left a family of five homeless, Wilmore, Kentucky carpenter Dean Esposito led an emergency effort to rebuild their lives. This week, a grateful family opens the doors to a brand-new home.

It makes me so proud to live in a place where people care enough to actually perform miracles.

A frenetic, heartfelt effort led by local carpenter Dean Esposito will culminate this week in a new life for the Cloud family of Wilmore, Kentucky.

The Clouds barely escaped with their lives Thanksgiving night 2011, when a malfunctioning space heater sparked an inferno that consumed their Gillispie Street home. Unfortunately, parents Randolph and Eleanor and their three preteen daughters escaped with nothing else: The fire consumer their home, their furniture, their clothes, even their car.

“We were grateful to be alive,” Randolph Cloud said. “But we had nothing, absolutely nothing.”

To make matters worse, Randolph had been unemployed for nearly 10 months at the time of the fire. With insurance claims coming under question – the family had fallen behind on its monthly premiums – the Clouds stayed with friends at first, then migrated to a local shelter. Things looked very bleak – until Dean Esposito rallied the troops.

During a Dec. 10 Cloud family fundraiser at the West Jessamine High School in nearby Nicholasville, Kentucky, Esposito – a local carpenter who’s also been looking for work, since being laid off by the Jessamine County School District nine months ago – took the microphone and asked for volunteers to help build the Clouds a new house.

“I had the time, and they certainly had the need,” Dean Esposito said. “I was standing there at this bake sale thinking about it, and I realized they were never going to raise enough money to make a dent in what happened to these people. And I realized I definitely had a talent that could help them. What would I hope would happen if the positions were reversed? What are we supposed to do as human beings?”

The bake sale raised enough money for the Clouds to get out of the shelter and move into a nearby hotel. But Esposito’s impassioned plea was the biggest hit of the fundraiser; by the end of the night, several professionals had offered gratis goods or services to the house-raising plan.

“I definitely got involved because of what Dean Esposito said,” noted Gary Brown, a Nicholasville-based electrician who attended school with Randolph Cloud and came to the bake sale to see if he could help his old friend. “He really moved people with what he said. He really motivated people.”

Realizing they had a real chance to help the Clouds recover, Esposito and several other volunteers began soliciting further donations of money, materials and services. By Christmas, the Cloud’s property had been cleared of debris and new building permits had been approved – all at no charge – and Esposito’s army had secured donations from local engineers, masons, builders and plumbers. Three regional lumber yards stepped up, and the house-raising was underway.

“It was really a thing of beauty,” Dean Esposito said. “All these different people came together and said, ‘This family is not going to be homeless, because I can do something about it.’ The fact that it happened over the holidays was just more touching, somehow … it was a real holiday spirit.”

Working at a considerable pace (and building over the strong foundation of the Cloud’s old house, undamaged by the fire), Esposito’s work gang had the frame of the new two-story, four-bedroom house in place by the first week of January. Rotating volunteer crews from four different Wilmore-area construction companies built interior and exterior walls using materials either donated by those companies or other local suppliers. Neighbors continued contributing through bake sales and other fundraisers. Last week, two local roofing companies finished the topper last week, charging for the materials only; this week, volunteers from a local paving company were expected to install sidewalks and a new blacktop driveway.

Also expected this week were deliveries of new windows, as well as several interior and exterior doors and several internal “niceties,” Dean Esposito said, including light fixtures and ceramic tiles. But with a little more hard work and a dash of luck, the new Cloud home will be ready for its ribbon-cutting debut, scheduled for Feb. 3.

When all is said and done, more than 140 professional contractors will have donated over 3,300 work-hours to the project. Cash donations will have totaled over $47,000 (a final fundraiser is scheduled for Feb. 2 at West Jessamine High School) and more than $107,000 in materials will have been gifted.

“We can’t thank our friends and neighbors and this entire community enough,” Randolph Cloud said. “It was such a terrifying event for our family and it obviously changed our lives forever. But Dean Esposito and the rest of the Wilmore community have shown what community spirit and humanity are all about. We are so thankful for this blessing.”

“It was really something, seeing this community come together like that,” Dean Esposito said. “I’m amazed we were able to do this, really, in just seven weeks. It makes me so proud to live in a place where people care enough to actually perform miracles.”

One task, alas, will not be completed by this Friday: While a local distributor is donating two-dozen gallons of a brand-name paint to the cause, the Cloud family will have to do its own painting.

“Get a brush, Randy,” Dean Esposito said. “Nothing in life is free.”

About Dean Esposito
Dean Esposito, 42, is a professional carpenter and electrician in Wilmore, Kentucky, where he lives with his wife, Kim, and their three children. A graduate of Jefferson Community College in Louisville, Kentucky, Dean Esposito is an avid hunter and fisherman.


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Ed Eshel