“He's gone above and beyond,” says Jim Walters. “And he just does it out of the kindness of his heart.”
Plumbing and remodeling have been Les Burnett’s trade for more than two decades. What people may not know is how much he puts his skills to use helping those in need.
But Jim Walters wants you to know. He wants you to know that Les is a good man in a world, in a country, that sees its share of bad guys and catastrophes splashed across the news. And Tim wants to say thank you, Les.
“He’s gone above and beyond,” says Jim. “And he just does it out of the kindness of his heart.”
Tim and his wife, Lana, are disabled Lake area residents who have suffered a myriad of serious health problems in recent years. With the couple struggling to care for themselves, let alone their home, the trailer house they own in Sunrise Beach eventually became too unhealthy to live in.
They have struggled to make ends meet as the state - Medicaid - considered the trailer a financial asset even though it was unlivable and they were forced to move out, paying rent because they couldn’t afford to fix their home.
Tim and Les have known each other for years because their children went to school together, though they’re all grown now.
When Les heard about Jim’s problems, he offered no judgement, only help.
For the last four months or so, Les and his family of Burnett & Sons Plumbing and Remodeling along with some of Jim’s family members have been remodeling the Walters’ mobile home in their spare time.
As you may imagine, a trailer that is unlivable is in pretty bad shape. A complete gut job down to the studs, Les has been rebuilding the interior of the Walters’ home bit by bit, nail by nail, wire by wire. And that was after they cleaned the trailer out and put on a new roof.
It has needed new wiring, new wiring, new plumbing, drywall, windows, doors - everything.
With a little money that Jim came into, he has managed to pay for most of the materials himself - helped by Les’ contractor discount - and has relied on Les for the knowledge and labor as well as some materials stockpiled from old jobs.
“I knew his health wasn’t too good. I do a lot of work for people who are low income or single moms, people that don’t have a lot of money,” says Les, surprised to get a call from a reporter for a story about something that to him seems to be second nature. “It’s nothing to me really. I’ve done so much stuff like this.”
But this is one of his biggest volunteer projects, Les admits. Some of the more typical things he’s done include rebuilding a water heater for an elderly person on a fixed income who couldn’t afford a new one, or doing an installation at no charge for someone didn’t know how to do it themselves and couldn’t afford to hire it done.
“I do what I can in between jobs,” he says. “I don’t do it for everybody, but the Lord gave me certain skills, and I try to use ‘em where I can to make things better for people.”
To Les, this is just what he does and has done quite a lot of over the years.
“I don’t have a lot of money, but I do what I can,” he says.
Nearly done now with the Walters’ home, the goal has been to get them moved back in before winter, and it looks like they will meet that deadline, even though Les has been slowed down in the last couple of weeks.
He fell and shattered his own ankle, but he has rigged a trolley to prop up his leg so he can still get around his job sites and keep going.