These volunteers gave one grieving family a happy homecoming

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When Bryan Valrance heard Estelle Barnes-Summers plea for help on Fox 2 news in January, he knew he needed to do something. Summers and her late husband Elijah had purchased a home on Detroit’s east side three years ago for their six kids. He was shot and killed last May, leaving the family with one income and a home that still needed renovations before anyone could move in.

Valrance went into work the next morning and started talking with the gas technicians he works with. A few of the guys had watched the same story, and they set out to help this family as they have with many others. A few months later, his crew handed off the home to a team from Humble Design to decorate the house ahead of the Barnes-Summers family seeing the finished product for the first time Wednesday.

“Our normal job is to take care of our customers. We work on gas lines, we install gas lines, we fix gas leaks, so it’s in our DNA to really want to help people that need our help whether it’s on the job or off the clock,” said Valrance at the house reveal.

What made this job unique was the amount of work they did. Most of the walls needed to be stripped to the studs and floors needed to be replaced. Donations from organizations like Outdoor Creations and OCG paid for new flooring, drywall, paint, and windows, and helped pay for a new roof. Valrance worked with a team of DTE Gas technicians who volunteered their time and labor to put the house back together.

The fact that these men volunteered their time did not surprise Joi Harris, DTE Energy’s vice president of Gas Operations.

“Our employees have really big hearts,” said Harris. “They seek out opportunities to give back to the community. It just so happened that this family came to us in need and they didn’t hesitate to volunteer their time, talents, and skill to put this home back together.”

An overwhelmed Barnes-Summers was grateful. Before the Fox 2 story aired, she was planning on scrimping and saving enough to rehab one room at a time until the house was finished. Now the house is finished, and finished in a way that exceeded her dreams. She can enjoy time around the dinner table with her kids in their home. She can finally close a painful chapter in her life.

“Now I can rest. I can really rest,” she said with a sigh of relief. “My kids are really happy here.”