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A chance to live Posted 02/02/2015

by Mike Lee
Staff Writer

Sarah Skinner was born with Spina Bifida.
Her mom, Margo, didn’t find out until the day Sarah was born that she would be battling the most common permanently disabling birth defect.
Little did Margo know she would be fighting other battles on a daily basis.
“It is really hard to find a handicap place to live,” she said. “It blows my mind because I think if you build a new place why not make it handicap-accessible then you open up a new demographic. It’s crazy. Why build houses with steps because you never know.”
The options were few for Margo and her daughter, until she found Jack Mills.
“I was driving by and I saw the sign,” Skinner said. “A year before we moved in and there was nothing available and everything had been rented since they were built. I moved somewhere else and nothing is built for someone in a wheelchair. This is the first time she’s ever been able to get up to the sink and brush her teeth and wash her hands.”
Skinner was able to rent one side of a duplex that was basically custom-built for her daughter, at an affordable price.
“He has such a soft heart,” Skinner said. “He basically rented it to me on my word I was going to pay. I’ve never, ever paid late. He’s the best landlord ever. The other day my sink was leaking and they were here the next day changing out my garbage disposal. He’s on top of everything and they do preventative maintenance.”
It’s an award-winning idea.
In 2012 he earned an Apex Award from the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency.
That same year, Mayor Mick Cornett’s Committee on Disability Concerns recognized Mills with the Clearing the Path Award.
For Margo, Mills was there to provide something nobody ever would.
“Her entire life has been unique because she’s never fit into one group of the other because she’s physically disabled but not mentally,” Margo said. “She’s also pretty independent, probably 85 percent. If there was ever a place to live that everything was built for her she could be independent.”
Margo has done it all for her daughter with not much help from others. And as Sarah has grown and become more independent she’s learned to let go.
And after living the last 11 years in Mills’ cottage, she admits it’s easier knowing that her daughter can go out on her own.
The Skinners don’t have an award they can give Mills but they do have lots of good things to say.
“We are probably never going to leave,” Margo said.

Jack Mills, 77, helps people like Sarah Skinner, seated, and her mom, Margo, by providing special needs housing at an affordable cost.
Jack Mills, 77, helps people like Sarah Skinner, seated, and her mom, Margo, by providing special needs housing at an affordable cost.
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