Volunteers pitch in to help woman in need

Home improvements, from fresh paint to landscaping, welcome Elisovsky home

Sharin Leppert, left, and Steve Leppert, right, stand with Janet Elisovsky outside her home before her physical therapy appointment on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

Janet Elisovsky sat on the edge of her bed, relocated in the living room, recounting all those who offered her their time, money and assistance these past few months, after an infection forced amputation of her right foot.

Their kindness brought her to tears.

An infection this past summer at the site where, eight years ago, she shattered her ankle and broke her leg, eventually spread toxins throughout her body, resulting in the amputation.

“I have no regrets of them taking my foot…there’s not enough zeros in 100 percent of how much I feel better,” Elisovsky said.

She was medevaced from Cordova on July 2 and spent three and a half months in Anchorage in the wound care unit at St. Elias Specialty Hospital.

“Pastor Steve (Leppert)…he just called me up and he said…‘I’ve got a copy of your house key and I’ve got 18 people in here right now.’,” Elisovsky said.

Leppert’s wife, Sharin, could be heard in the background saying, “I hope you like green!”, recalled Elisovsky with a laugh.

Steve Leppert, pastor at Cordova’s Church of the Nazarene, and his wife Sharin, along with numerous volunteers, spent months preparing the house for her return.

“We just saw that she needed a lot of help in getting her life together,” he said.

Three times per week Leppert takes Elisovsky to her physical therapy appointments, continuously encouraging her with lots of laughs. “I’m thankful that I’m able to help her,” he said. “This is just a part of what I can do.”

Leppert gave much credit to his congregation and the community.

“Even though we have differences…I have never seen them not respond to a need,” he said.

During her time in Anchorage, Elisovsky had her heart set on coming home.

“So when people are up there saying, ‘Oh no, you can’t go to Cordova, they have nothing there,’ and I went, ‘Don’t even go there. You have no idea what I have there.’,” she said. “They might be limited a little bit on equipment but…no way are they limited in spirit or generosity.” Volunteers throughout the community poured in to offer help in any way possible, setting up a meal train, writing cards and helping improve her house.

Walls were cleaned, sealed and painted, her bed was moved downstairs, new kitchen curtains were hung, carpeting was replaced and doggy doors installed.

New curtains hang on the back window at Janet Elisovsky’s house on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. Friends, members of the congregation and volunteers throughout Cordova added new decorations and repaired Janet’s house while she was undergoing medical treatment in Anchorage. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

“It’s the details,” Elisovsky said.

Chris Bolin helped measure and install a wheelchair ramp outside.

“I barely know him,” she added.

Bolin wouldn’t accept payment from Janet, saying he just wanted to pay it forward.

Todd and Tom Nothstine power washed her house. Youth from the Church of the Nazarene kept up the outside landscaping.

Mimi Briggs and Cathy Sherman kept her job for her at the Cordova Historical Museum, which she is hoping to return to in January.

Altana and Chris Hamilton and Teresa De Simone took care of her Boston terrier, Munchie.

Joe Morrison, Barb Webber and Bruce Tiedeman pitched in too. Elisovsky has had a hard time accepting this level of help from the congregation and community.

Now she hopes to return the favor.

“They knew I was in need of help coming home and that’s just who they are,” she said. “It’s a community of caring…and not wanting recognition for what you do…if someone’s in need, the community is there.”

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Emily Mesner is a staff reporter and photographer for The Cordova Times. Reach her at emesner@thecordovatimes.com. Emily graduated from Central Michigan University, earning a degree in photojournalism with a cultural competency certificate. She first visited Alaska in 2016, working as a media intern for the National Park Service in Kotzebue and Denali National Park and Preserve, and has been coming back ever since. To see more photos, follow @thecordovatimes and @emilymesnerphoto on Instagram.