Community supports business owners after cancer diagnosis

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

HARDY, AR (KAIT) - The Hardy community is coming together to help business owners overcome a hard time.

Jerry and Rhonda Messer have owned the Rebel Station for seven years.

They decided to convert it into a restaurant called the Spring River Draft House and Grill when there were rumors that a large, chain gas station was coming to town.

"It kind of is bittersweet that we're leaving this but it's just a new chapter that we feel like we have to do because we already started it when we thought we had to start it," Rhonda said.

A few months into renovating the building, Jerry was diagnosed with cancer and couldn't continue the work.

"Life happens and we've done everything we possibly can," Rhonda said. "We don't want to close it down. We've put all our life savings, all of our 401Ks, our properties into this because we love it here and this is what we want to do."

At first, his prognosis wasn't very good.

"He told me that whatever happens, whether he goes south, he wants me to continue with this," Rhonda said.

Community members knew that she couldn't do it alone, though, so they have stepped up to help.

"He was doing the majority of the labor like the exterior and stuff but life happens," volunteer Lauren Siebert said. "In our community, people come together to help one another here, it's what we do. It's what we've always done as long as I've lived here."

Siebert said she wanted to help even though she had no construction experience.

She started helping with small projects around the store to move the process forward.

"In this area, we've lost so many businesses lately, but this is one we can actually do something about and help them finish this transition," Siebert said. "I believe that if Jerry hadn't got sick, they would already be a restaurant and be open right now."

Although Rhonda is reluctant to ask for help herself, Siebert said she is asking on her behalf.

She said anyone who is willing to volunteer a little bit of time can come tackle a small job.

"They could scrub walls to get them ready to be painted, they could spray paint a chair, be the go-to and if there are guys here working maybe they need you to hand them a board," Siebert said. "There really is something for everybody to do here."

Rhonda said they are humbled by this outpouring of love from the community.

"It feels really good because, you know, you don't really know how you're perceived in a community until things like this happen," Rhonda said. "And then with me, I'm prideful and I didn't want anybody [to help]. It puts a different perspective on everything. There are people that love and care for us that I didn't know before."

Anyone can volunteer between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. or contact Siebert to help after hours.

The good news is that Rhonda said Jerry seems to be doing better with chemotherapy and radiation.

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