Make a Difference Day 2013: Gwendolyn Reese (Long Beach, CA)


  • Replace wood shingle roof
  • Clear yard and haul away debris
  • Replace wooden fence
  • Paint exterior of house and garage

The Story

Gwendolyn Reese retired several years ago from her teaching position because of her medical conditions: She’s had four back surgeries, and has had the same knee replaced three times due to complications. Her grandson lives with her and helps out both physically and financially; but the two of them together are simply unable to maintain the house in good shape.

The primary repair the Reese house and garage needed was a new roof. The existing roof was wood shingles, which were warped with age and presented a real fire hazard. In fact, Code Enforcement had already sited Mrs. Reese and was about to initiate court procedings against her. To complicate matters, the roof was pitched rather severely, so that scaffolding had to be erected to accomplish the work. Bill Leisy, RTLB Board Member and construction guru, took charge of the situation and found a roofer who was willing to remove the old roof, repair the wood damage, install new plywood and new asphalt shingles all at a reasonable price. This work was completed prior to our MADD workday.

The Reese house, which was built in 1937, is in a part of town that is undergoing “gentrification” – entailing that the Reeses must keep up with neighborhood standards. To this end, a force of 150 volunteers converged at the Reese site on October 26, 2013. Their primary tasks included clearing the yard of debris and excess vegation, replacing 20 feet of the wooden fence in the backyard, and painting the exteriors of the house and garage.

A word about all these volunteers: We at RTLB were most gratified that Mrs. Reese’s son Paul contributed mightily to our efforts. Significantly, he was joined by a group from the Long Beach Police Department – including the Chief of Police and the Commanders of the North, West, and East Divisions; by a group of professionals from the United States Attorney’s Office -- including the U.S. Attorney himself; by a group of managers from Smart and Final; by groups of carpenters-in-training from El Camino Community College and Long Beach City College; by a group from the Scholar’s Honors Club at Cerritos College; by a group of 75 students and staff from California State University, Long Beach; and by another 25 individuals who simply wanted to “make a difference”. Every single one of these volunteers worked extremely hard to help ensure the exterior of the Reese home was in perfect condition.

Bill Leisy and Jan Ward of the RTLB Board and Gymeka Williams of the U.S. Attorney’s office served as House Captains, charged with responsibility for training and guiding this army of volunteers into manageable work duties. Mary Thomsic of RTLB and Zion Smith of CSULB served as Volunteer Coordinators for the day – not an easy task considering the numbers of volunteers. Smart and Final donated 15 cases of water, which (fortunately) lasted through the day. Tasty lunches were provided courtesy of El Pollo Loco Charities and Buono’s Restaurant.

At the end of the day, the volunteers knew they had learned a great deal and that they had contributed a great deal. Mrs. Reese expressed her appreciation via email:

“It was amazing and beautiful to see all of the people that came to work on my home. To see so many people that gave of their time and talents to help others was truly inspiring. To realize so many people care brought tears to my eyes. It really touched my heart. To know that community members, city officials, including members of our police department, spent their personal time to volunteer to get my home not only up to code, but beyond, it is beautiful! I can’t put into words how grateful I am, truly blessed to live in such a warm, friendly, and caring community. My entire family and I truly thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Sincerely, G. Reese”

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