GREAT BARRINGTON -- Andy and Beth Crowell knew their neighbors were upset there was too much debris piled around their two-story house in Housatonic.
But struggling to keep up with multiple jobs and with four children, including 25-year-old triplets with autism and epilepsy, the couple had trouble dealing with the clutter that was mounting outside their home.
"We are self-employed and sometimes we get home and we take off one hat and put on another," Andy Crowell said. "We just didn't get around to it."
Then came the notice from the Board of Health, threatening to condemn the home if it was not cleaned up.
The cash-strapped couple were cornered into a difficult position -- until some of the very same neighbors that were complaining helped raise more than $2,700 in the last three weeks to help with the cleanup. A few even volunteered to lend a helping hand.
"We would have had no way to sink $1,500 just into renting [two 40-yard] Dumpsters," Andy said.
The Crowells, who hold multiple jobs, including clearing out homes, often kept property that was destined for donation at their home. Boxes were stacked atop other boxes until there was no room to spare in their four-bedroom home. Debris then began collecting on their porch, side yard and garage, eventually leaving them with a cleanup chore that was more than they could handle alone.
After hearing about the Board of Health notice, the couple's oldest child, Stephanie Crowell, 27, who lives in Hatfield, posted an initial plea for $7,000 on www.gofundme.com. She shared the post on Facebook and the donations from friends, along with neighbors, came in.
The couple says they are well on their way with the current contribution.
Neighbor Ellen Lahr, who donated $25, said she's noticed a tremendous improvement.
"What I've seen happen in the last week is an extraordinary show of support for people who really care for their family," Lahr said. "Stephanie should really be applauded for leading this."
The Crowells have been ordered to remove excess trash and provide a path to exits. Freemasons from Great Barrington and West Stockbridge have helped replace rotted wood on the porch.
Great Barrington Health Agent Mark Pruhenski said the department had to take action in response to residents' concerns. The home will be inspected on Oct. 15.
But Pruhenski said marked improvement on the property makes it unlikely the house will be condemned.
"What I am looking for is the state sanitary code for housing," he said. "It's basically the minimum standards for human habitation."
In the last week, the Crowell family says they are 40 percent of the way to their goal. The couple even took the week off to get the interior of their house in order.
Housatonic resident Rachel Shepardson, who lives down the road, spent Wednesday afternoon clearing an entrance from the back door to the living room.
"I think a lot of it was I've been in a situation where I needed help and my value system is to help people when it's needed," Shepardson said. "Stephanie is someone I grew up with and I took it as a call to action."
When asked if he could clean his house alone, Andy shook his head.
"We have a wonderful opportunity for a fresh start after pushing this aside for so long," he said.
How to help ...
Volunteers and funds are still being accepted to help the Crowells clean their home. The cleanup is expected to continue through Sunday.
Anybody interested in helping is encouraged to e-mail email@example.com.
Donations are being accepted at the Crowell Cleanup and Repair Fund at www.gofundme.com.