Support from a friend can go a long way in someone's recovery, and support from an entire community can go even further.

Lua Smith and Chris Bucher are coworkers in Missouri S&T’s IT department, and are raising support for a former coworker who is currently dealing with severe complications following a medical procedure. 


Their former coworker, Jeff Spencer, went on long-term disability after developing an illness after a weight-loss operation. 


“Jeff had struggled through his life with weight,” explained Bucher.” He had tried various diet programs and other methods to lose weight. None of them worked for him, so after much consideration and consulting with doctors he went in for sleeve surgery.”


While in the recovery process, Bucher explained Jeff became unable to keep food down, and became uncontrollably ill and unable to obtain nourishment. For a lengthy time, Jeff went back and forth with his doctors, who eventually told him the problem was in his head. It was after one such meeting with a doctor, according to Bucher, that Jeff collapsed, unable to leave the facility. Bucher explained Jeff remained in the ICU for several months, having nearly died due to this lack of nourishment, developing myopathy and other complications. Even today, according to his friends, Jeff is bound to a wheelchair and has severe dexterity issues. 


Eventually, Jeff was admitted to a facility where he received physical therapy. However, the insurance only lasted so long before they ceased paying for the facility, and Jeff was forced to move into a facility in Salem where he is currently paying out of pocket, dipping into his retirement savings. 


“It’s not a horrible facility, but it’s not the best environment for him to recover and he’s not getting any official physical therapy because insurance is not paying for it,” Bucher explained. 


The savings Jeff is using to pay for his stay are scheduled to run out. Thankfully, these friends are stepping in to catch Jeff before he has a chance to fall. 


When hearing about the challenges Jeff was facing, Smith proposed the idea of building him a small home, having researched the process of building a “tiny house” herself, which are becoming a popular trend. She explained Jeff’s own house and his parents’ are not equipped to handle someone in a wheelchair, much less the dexterity problems he is currently facing. 


“If we could build him a small, energy efficient home, we could do it for less money than to rehab his current house and Jeff won’t be out on the street when he’s out of retirement money,” Smith said. 


Smith and Bucher reached out to the Civil Engineering department at the university, who allowed graduate students to develop a floor plan for the new home, and are currently working with the community to acquire tax-deductible donations of materials and funds. 


“Our real goal is to try and keep financial goals as minimal as possible and to lean on people to donate materials, time and effort,” Bucher said. “Several businesses and individuals from the community have donated a lot. We’ve had an incredible outpouring of love for this project.” 


Bucher said they update their website, jeffsnewhome.com, when a specific financial need arises, but are mostly looking for material or labor donations to stay transparent about the project, stressing they want to build Jeff a home. 


“We’re not trying to collect money unless we need it,” Jeff said. “For some people, that’s the only way they can donate, and that’s why we’re collecting money to fill in the gaps."


Donations are being handled by Central Community Church of God, allowing them to be tax-deductible. People can donate through the jeffsnewhome.com website. 


One of the other ways people can support Jeff, is to leave a message of love on his Facebook page, said Smith. 


“It would be really great if people were even to donate a ‘Jeff we’re supporting you’ note on his Facebook page,” she said. “It really is helping to keep him going, to see that people care. He can’t believe he’s received so much love already. He needs to know he is worthy and we do care. Even just a moment’s notice that we’re cheering for him would make a huge difference in his ability to keep going.” 


According to Smith and Bucher, Jeff needs to move into the home by September 1, and the rough estimate on the remaining project amounts to $14,697.65 in materials or monetary donations in order to have the structure up and safe from the weather. 


In support of Jeff, Applebee’s will be hosting a “dine to donate” night for Jeff on August 8, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. along with a raffle.