LS: General contractor Bilger uses his expertise for family in need

Cal Bilger is volunteering his time as the general contractor in the effort to build a house for the White family. He says he’s happy to be part of something positive going on despite difficult economic times.

Special to the Sentinel
Mary and McKenzie White and Tom Ruspil smile for a photo at the Denver Home Show at the National Western Stock Show Complex on March 21. The Whites and Ruspil, who is leading the effort to build the White family a house, were specially invited to the show where they met Ty Pennington from the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Cal Bilger can’t remember where he heard his favorite expression, but he tries to live by it daily: “Concentrate on the windshield, not on the rear-view mirror.”

The 68-year-old general contractor and founder of B&B Builders built his own home, intending to live there with Velma, his wife of 44 years. However, Velma never saw the home completed. She died of cancer several years ago.

After Velma’s death, Bilger wasn’t sure where life would take him. The rear-view mirror seemed so much easier to stare at than the windshield.

Then, he met Marlene Holmes. They were married May 31. They love to travel and enjoy the same taste in food, wine and coffee. They are great friends.

“I was reborn,” Bilger said.

Bilger is using his happiness and his construction expertise to focus on building a home for a family who needs help.

As the volunteer general contractor for the White family home project, Bilger is responsible for making most decisions about the house going up at 779 24 1/2 Road.

Bilger is part of a group of Grand Valley residents chipping in to build a home for Mary White and her three daughters. The youngest daughter, McKenzie White, 14, is paralyzed as the result of a heart attack she had during a physical education class when she was 6.

The White family never has lived in a wheelchair-accessible home. In fact, they have never owned a home of their own.

The Whites’ initial rental home was poorly ventilated and not suitable for someone in a wheelchair.

The White family has consistently put the needs of others above their own, raising thousands of dollars for the adaptive physical education program in area schools and helping with fundraising and other support for the Special Olympics.

Bilger met the White family through Barb Harvey, a special education teacher at Fruita Monument High School where Mary White works.

Last year, Harvey asked Bilger to recommend what the White family could do to improve their rental home.

Bilger went through the house and suggested they bulldoze it.

“It was so inadequate to take care of McKenzie,” he said.

In November, Mary White and her daughters moved to a rental home on Orchard Mesa. It has better ventilation, but the lease ends in May.

Bilger couldn’t walk away from the White family and is committed to building the family their own home where McKenzie can comfortably grow up.

Construction on the house is in its infancy. The foundation has been poured.

Bilger has talked to many people in the local construction industry about donating construction materials in the weeks ahead.

Asking business owners to donate items in this economy is difficult, Bilger said. But he is confident businesses will come through. He is confident the home will be built.

He is focused on the windshield, not on the rear-view mirror.

No matter what happens with the economy, Mary White and her daughters, particularly
McKenzie, have needs that won’t change, Bilger said.

McKenzie must have help to shower and dress. She eats through a tube and has weekly appointments with doctors or therapists.

“When the economy is like this, people need warm fuzzies,” Bilger said. “That’s the main thing we want in life.”

Seeing the White house to completion will give Bilger the “warm fuzzy” he is looking for.

He is working on three remodels simultaneously with the White home project.

“I need the challenge,” Bilger said of balancing his work life.

Now may be the hardest time for people to donate money and goods, Bilger said, but March 2009 may also be the best time.

He used baseball for an analogy. Imagine a batter up in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two strikes.

The outcome looks bleak. Not to Bilger.

“We are going to hit a home run,” he said.


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