Just 30 minutes before the home of a Pocatello couple was to be sold at auction to repay a $3,000 loan, local residents donated enough money to save the property for Leland and Donna Wheeler.

"The people of Pocatello are wonderful. This has got to be the highlight of my legal career in Pocatello," said attorney Doug Merkley, a volunteer who helped the couple stave off creditors.Wheeler, 49, and his wife, 56, both are in ill health and unemployed. They fell behind in paying off a $3,000 loan taken out earlier for a home improvement project. The bill reached $4,200 with legal fees.

A fund-raising drive was sponsored by a local radio station, but produced only $2,400 by Thursday afternoon. It was $600 short of the amount the mortgage company said it would take to stop foreclosure.

An auction was scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday.

But donations kept coming in. At 10:30 a.m., Merkley was able to pay the loan off. Wheeler's been out of work for more than a year but recently got a part-time custodial job in Blackfoot, and the mortgage company says he can pay the legal fees off at $100 per month.

Mrs. Wheeler said she and her husband were grateful to those who contributed.

"We are very grateful. We want to thank everyone that helped," she said.

The Wheelers have made a New Year's resolution they vow to keep, she said. It involves staying away from finance companies.

"If we can't do it with cash, forget it," she said.