Mrs. Williams is 69 years old and permanently disabled as the result of multiple back surgeries; she uses a cane to assist her but still has difficulty with mobility. Her husband, Don Williams, is 59 years old and is recovering from a knee injury sustained on the job. Their son (age 47, laid-off) and granddaughter (age 22, a student) live with them. The family’s income derives solely from the social security and disability payments made to Mr. and Mrs. Williams.
Their home was built in 1929 and they have lived there since 2002. They have tried to keep the house in good repair, but progress has been hampered by their limited physical abilities and lack of funds. The house earned City Code violations due to deteriorated exterior paint.
When Rebuilding Together Long Beach conducted a site visit, we discovered several other health and safety problems: Because the house has no insulation, the Williams had purchased air conditioners – but they are unable to use them, as the current electrical system cannot carry the load. The backyard fence was so deteriorated that it presented a major safety hazard. And the hot water heater was beginning to leak.
RTLB mustered almost 100 individuals to tackle this project: volunteers from the Conservation Corps of Long Beach repaired the fence; volunteers from Wells Fargo, Polytechnical High School, and California State University Long Beach cleared the yard and painted the exteriors of the house and the garage; electricians installed two electrical circuits, and plumbers installed a new water heater.
The primary reason for the very large number of volunteers arose because the painting involved a complex and extremely labor-intensive effort, as the original stucco of the house had been covered with a highly and deeply ‘textured’ paint. As a result, volunteers were forced to use sponges to adequately cover all the many nooks and crannies. But the weather was perfect, and the volunteers actually seemed to enjoy themselves because they knew their exertions were directly benefiting people who were unable to help themselves. One volunteer commented: “I most enjoyed the rewarding feeling of working with a team to complete a project for someone whose circumstances prevented them from undertaking it on their own”, while another volunteer offered: “Awesome work! Loved getting involved”.
RTLB greatly appreciated several corporation donations: El Pollo Loco Charities donated lunch, Benjamin Moore donated all the paint required, and the City of Long Beach Neighborhood Services Department donated a dumpster.
One of the day’s highlights – and there were many – came when City Council Member Al Austin visited the site and presented RTLB an appreciation award.