COLD SPRING — It's been almost six months since a truck barreled into the front of Andrea and Phil Robinson's family home in July. The scars of that trauma are still there, but with the help of some local builders, the Robinsons' house now looks completely different, serving less of a physical reminder of the past.
The doorway and side of the house are now edged with stone, and structural sections of the garage, doors and windows damaged by the truck have been replaced.
"[It] brought me tears when I saw the outside of the house," Andrea Robinson said. "I couldn't have imagined that to look the way it does."
A couple days after the crash, Andrea said a neighbor named Tony Smith came to introduce himself, express his support for their family and offer help.
"In fact, he brought a planter over that I still have growing inside … because he had saw [in] an article that my plants were ruined," she said.
After their original insurance adjuster gave them an estimate that wasn't feasible for their budget, Smith said he was going to contact his manager at a building supply company in St. Cloud to see if they could provide some materials.
Mike Yaeger, a salesperson with Tony's Lifetime Exteriors in Sauk Rapids, later coordinated with Smith's company to make sure they could give the home a new look without the Robinsons paying more than their deductible.
"We're six months out, we had to wait for materials, but they stayed in contact with us [throughout] the whole process," Andrea said. "He asked me, 'What is your dream look? No cost associated, what would you want? And then we'll see what we could do.' And I said, 'I would love stonework, but I know that's out of the budget.' And then when he came back with the estimate he said, 'We got the stonework for you.'"
Yaeger said the company covered additional costs associated with the upgrades and donated some time as well.
Some other siding companies the Robinsons spoke with told the family if they posted on social media about their company, they'd come by and fix their home quicker, but that rubbed them the wrong way, Andrea said.
Her husband Phil said the contractor they chose made them feel very comfortable about the process and were constantly checking in to make sure the work was acceptable.
Instead of removing their Black Lives Matter and Love Your Neighbor signs out front while they were working, they placed them farther down in the yard so they wouldn't get damaged, Andrea said. Before they left they put the signs back up carefully, making sure they faced the street.
"It wasn't just about getting the job done, they had the compassion for the situation and a level of understanding that some companies didn't have," Phil said. "Like the shout-out thing — it's not about that. We're trying to put a Band-Aid on the problem [so] that we don't have to keep reliving it every time we walk past this. It's more than just getting this fixed for us, it's trying to start the healing process."
'The community needed to be there for them'
As a single father who grew up in Cold Spring, Smith said, "It didn't really seem like too many people were kind of stepping up" after the incident in July, so he approached Andrea to help out.
"Cold Spring has a rich tradition of saying they're gonna do stuff and get it done and they never do. Just like with schools with the anti-bullying and all this other stuff, you know, it goes on all the time and nothing ever gets done," Smith said. "They just kind of put a Band-Aid over it. And to me that's how I kind of felt this was going, too. Where the city was putting on a big show saying, 'Oh, we're here to help, we're here to help' but they weren't doing nothing."
Smith said he'd bring his 8-year-old son with him when he went to the Robinsons so he could meet them.
"With this day and age, we don't need to have stuff like this happen. It's ridiculous," he said. "And it kind of struck me hard enough I figured, you know what, it's a teaching tool for my son to show some compassion and caring for everybody."
Phil Robinson said the family has been working with the city and school boards to fix internal issues they have with diversity and inclusion, "but it's kind of like trying to build on old structures," he said. "Sometimes the only way to fix it is to start over new. Because some of the people that's in charge right now, it has been that way for them for 30-40 years."
If there are issues happening in the community, the community needs to be involved, even if people don't think it affects them personally, Andrea said.
"Everybody should feel that they're part of the community that they live in," Phil said. "I'm the type of person if I see somebody broke down, I don't care what color you are, if you need help [I'll help]. And I wish that everybody in the community had that same, I guess, level of compassion, you know? And I feel until more people have that or even teach their kids that, how we going to break the cycle?"
Becca Most is a cities reporter with the St. Cloud Times. Reach her at 320-241-8213 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @becca_most.
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This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: Cold Spring, Minnesota man helps family repair home after racist attack