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‘Oh my goodness’: Pay It Forward holds seventh annual reveal for dad, 3 children

As his three children ran through the house Friday evening, there was little doubt how their father Henry Mandler was feeling.

Sure, they were returning home after a week away, but this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill homecoming. This was a reintroduction to their home thanks Pay It Forward, the local nonprofit that has been remodeling homes for those in need for seven years.

As Mandler, who has been without the use of his legs since being in a car accident on Dec. 18, 2018, wheeled through the house he repeatedly could be heard saying over and over again, “Oh my goodness.”

The remodel of the home seemed bigger this year as work was done in both the upstairs and the downstairs, featuring the inclusion of two chair lifts that will help Mandler upstairs and into the basement.

“I can’t believe it,” Mandler said. “There’s way more here than I thought there would be.”

The inclusion of the chair seemed a necessity for Pay It Forward organizer Gina Grundmeier. Before the remodel, Mandler was using 2×4’s to get up and down the stairs.

“He has such drive and determination,” Grundmeier said. “He’s such a humble spirit.”

For Mandler, the changes to the home represent a much needed change for the better, allowing him to do more of the mundane things each day in a much more simplified manner.

“It makes everything more efficient,” he said. “Before it would take so much longer to do stuff. I can maximize my time.”

Knowing that there is a group out there willing to do the things Pay It Forward does leaves Mandler with a sense of gratitude and hope.

“It means the world,” he said. “It’s absolutely incredible. I don’t think I’m the most deserving, but to know there are people with such big hearts … hopefully someday I can pay it forward.”

After seven years things like Friday’s reveal doesn’t get much better and it certainly doesn’t diminish.

“When he pulled up I started crying,” she said. “There isn’t any better soul food. It’s so incredibly fulfilling.”