Contractors work for area cancer respite

Several local builders recently set out in search of land and materials, with plans to build a retreat near the Bethany coast for weary cancer patients and their families.

Contractors for a Cause has been around for while now, as Contractors for a Cure — over the past six years, the group’s fall golf classics have raised more than $150,000 for the American Diabetes Association.

They’ve added a spring formal gala to the benefit calendar this year, and reported admirable community response to that event, and their new mission.

As Contractors’ Mark Hardt pointed out, diabetes was a great cause — and so is this one. “We decided it was time to focus on something a little closer to home,” Hardt said.

The group has joined forces with the Justin W. Jennings Foundation, named in honor of the young man who spent many of his final days around Bethany Beach.

Jennings’ mother, Mary Ellen Nantais, decided he would have wanted to give others the same opportunity to find a little solace by the seashore.

Nantais said she always exhaled with relief as they crossed the Indian River Inlet bridge heading south. “It’s tranquil here,” she said. “There are places you can just walk and smell the salt air, find some solitude — or if you want to be around people, you can do that, too.”

Contractors’ Andy Lyons agreed — there’s just something about the beach, whether it’s empty or crowded. “It’s always a vacation crowd — you don’t have to feel like you’re interrupting someone’s hustle-bustle life,” he said. “There’s a very sunrise to sunset atmosphere.”

“Whenever Justin got out of treatment, this is where he wanted to come,” Mike Cummings recalled. “This is where he found peace, and others will, too.”

He said they were committed to this new mission for the long haul. The group would concentrate on Justin Jennings until they found a piece of land and moved through construction, and then stick around to help with maintenance and management, Cummings said.

They’re hoping to find a piece of land within reasonable walking distance of the beach — somewhere east of St. Ann’s Catholic — and plan to offer the house to at most two families at a time. It will be open year-round.

Anyone interested would be welcomed to support this Contractors for a Cause/Justin W. Jennings Foundation effort, and can reach Nantais at 383-9282 or Mary Ellen Nantais, 230 Chad Place, Ocean View, DE 19970.

Other local contacts are: Mike Cummings, 537-4444; Jim Kyger, 537-5000; Mark Hardt, 542-5195; Andy Lyons, 249-1318; and Frank Miranda, 236-0897.