Patrick and Nancy Dittert of Perry said they tried for 10 years to get a local roofer to repair the leaks in the tin roof he installed for them, but they only seemed to get the run-around, talk but no action.
But in a striking illustration of the power of the press — now called social media and the internet — the Ditterts’ letter to the editor, published about 4 p.m. Wednesday in ThePerryNews.com, brought immediate attention to their case and even some movement toward a resolution.
“I was shocked that in just this short a time that so many people heard about it,” Patrick Dittert said Thursday afternoon.
The Wednesday letter had hardly been published in ThePerryNews.com when Caitlyn Lamm, Dallas County Extension’s savvy communications director, shared the Facebook post with Dallas County Habitat for Humanity. First thing Thursday morning, Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson was emailing Omar Padilla, director of Dallas County Habitat for Humanity, who said he was looking into the Ditterts’ situation.
Dittert described his family’s circumstances and the difficulties they face in repairing the roof.
“We have lived in Perry for many years now, and all of our children have graduated from Perry,” Dittert said in his letter. “We also have pastored churches here in town. Nancy and I are both disabled, me from a brain tumor and Nancy from several muscle diseases, so we live on a very fixed income. With all of our medical bills, it is nearly impossible to get the money we need for home repairs.”
By Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his letter was published, Patrick Dittert had a New Year’s Eve visitor knocking on his door.
“The company who did it came by the house just a little bit ago,” Dittert said Thursday. “Apparently, they saw the article in ThePerryNews.com, and he said, ‘We’ll redo it at no cost to you.’ I’m waiting to see if that’s true, but that’s what they’re saying.”
It is said discretion is the better part of valor and in his letter to the editor and in conversation, Dittert discreetly avoided naming the roofing contractor he claims has put him off for 10 years. Yet it looks like the roofer got the message.
“They felt the pressure, apparently,” Dittert said. “That was my whole purpose, to see if they had enough integrity to say, ‘Okay, we were wrong. We’ll fix it.’ And they did. They had enough integrity to come back and say, ‘Hey, we need to take care of this.’ He took measurements and ordered the tin, and it’s supposed to be in here next week, he said.”
Other options also offered themselves in the wake of his letter in ThePerryNews.com.
“From this article today, I had two contractors on their way here to give me estimates when this guy stopped by,” Dittert said. “This guy never told me he was coming or nothing. He just came by. So I had to get in touch with both of them real quick and say, ‘Well, the guy who did it is here. I appreciate your interest’ and so forth.”
He said the social-media experience has been an education to him as well.
“The letter generated a lot of interest,” he said. “It generated a lot of things that I didn’t think of, like the GoFundMe page and stuff like that. I’m glad I did it. It really taught me some things as well.”
Dittert said he reads ThePerryNews.com but was not aware how wide its circulation has become. A recent survey by Drake University marketing students found nearly 80 percent of Perry residents now get their local news and information from ThePerryNews.com, significantly more than the number who use the weekly newspaper or radio station.
In a little more than 10 months, ThePerryNews.com has had 755,000 visits to its website by 282,000 individual visitors, and ThePerryNews Facebook page has more fans than any other local news source. Dittert said he was glad he turned to ThePerryNews.com to get the word out about the state of his roof.
“I didn’t realize ThePerryNews.com had that many subscribers to it,” he said. “When I heard you had almost 50,000 visitors in December alone, I thought, ‘Wow! This’ll be good.’ Plus you put it in right away. I figured it’d be a week, two weeks, you know, but you put it in right away, and that’s really good. I just thank you for doing that. You really added a good blessing to this house today. It’s the power of the press.”