Twice a day for the last several years, Marcus Jackson would pour 2 gallons of fuel into a heater warming his drafty trailer near Jarrettsville.
Despite the risk of starting a fire, the 83-year-old filled the heater on his own because he couldn't afford to repair a pump connecting the heater to an outside fuel tank.
But the days of that chore are over. An outpouring of help and donations from county residents in the Jarrettsville area has made Jackson's life very different indeed.
The community, led by the Jarrettsville Lions Club, has provided Jackson with food, fuel, furniture, a car -- and another trailer complete with a working heat system.
"I'm glad they helped," said Jackson, a retired farm worker who says he never earned more than $70 a week.
"It surprises you. You don'tknow what friends you got till they come to help you."
Jackson, who lives on $500 a month from Social Security, said he never sought community assistance because he didn't think anyone would help.
"I didn't go beg anybody for nothing," he said. "I just thought they wouldn't do it."
Joe Butler, a vice president of the Jarrettsville Lions Club, said Jackson is known by many in Jarrettsville as a friendly soul often seen driving a big, old Chevrolet through the rural areapeppered with horse farms.
But few knew of Jackson's Spartan living conditions until last Christmas.
During the holidays, Butler said he went to Jackson's home off Troyer Road to offer the elderly mana food basket.
Butler said he found Jackson living in a dilapidated 8-by-30-foot trailer filled with papers, old furniture and other possessions.
Because of the trailer's faulty heating system, Butlersaid he feared for Jackson's safety.
"At 83 years old, he deserved to live better," Butler said. "I just don't think anyone realizes anyone lived like that."
And so Butler, unemployed for a year because of a back injury, went to work.
First he arranged for Jackson to move to another mobile home, a 12-by-55-foot model manufactured in 1976. Butler's parents, Walter and Mary Wilson, bought the trailer for $200.
Last Saturday, about 30 Jarrettsville residents, including20 Lions Club members, gathered to help Jackson move into his new home. The volunteers graded Jackson's 2-acre lot, set the trailer on its foundation and hooked up utilities.
The Wilsons also provided Jackson with heating fuel for the winter months and living room furniture. Butler and his wife, Cynthia, bought Jackson a used kitchen set.
Meanwhile, more Jarrettsville residents heard of the effort and volunteered help.
The Lions Club is paying for an eye examination and new glasses, and the Lioness Club, the women's auxiliary of the Lions Club, stocked Jackson's kitchen with food. A Norrisville painting company sent workers to give the trailer a coat of paint.
While Butler was arranging the new trailer, another problem surfaced. Jackson's 26-year-old Chevrolet broke down with about 650,000 miles on the odometer.
Butler turned to George Grimmel, a Jarrettsville residentwhose family owns a furniture store. Grimmel said he'd provide a 1979 Dodge to Jackson. Keene Dodge of Jarrettsville volunteered its services to inspect the car and get it ready for Jackson.
Butler said he is surprised how his efforts, starting with a simple food basket, snowballed into a community effort. He estimated that about $5,000 was spent in the effort.
"The pat on the back goes to the people of the community," Butler said. "All I did was ask. Everybody just rushed right out to help."
For Jackson, he's just happy to have a new home.
"I like it," he said. "I love it."