National Rebuilding Day, 2015: Aurelia Zavala


  • Wheelchair ramp
  • Carpentry, plumbing, and electrical repairs
  • Paint exterior

The Story

Eighty-two year-old Ms. Zavala has lived with her son 50 year-old Michael in this modest but comfortable mobile home for some 20 years. Ms. Zavala uses a walker, and Michael is legally blind. Their combined social security and disability income suffices to meet their daily needs – but does not allow them to afford costly repairs when such are mandated. During our site visit, Rebuilding Together Long Beach discovered a range of repairs that were absolutely essential to ensure that this family could live in a safe environment.

Those industrious carpentry students from El Camino College and Orange Coast College once again offered their expertise: They built a wheelchair ramp, providing a safe and secure way for the Zavalas to enter and leave their home; they repaired a 24 inch diameter hole in the floor of Michael’s bedroom, removing what had been a clear and present danger; and they installed a cross-guard rail on the back porch and stabilized the front porch, thereby delivery further protection for the movement of the residents.

Employees of the International Association of Exhibits and Events lent their labor painting the exterior of the mobile home with paint generously donated by Benjamin Moore. It turns out that soft blue is Ms. Zavala’s favorite color, and she was ecstatic with the result.

Finally, we replaced a broken light fixture; we removed a blockage in the hot water line; and, using the engineering ‘fix’ that a long-term volunteer for RTLB has developed, we remediated the aluminum-wiring problem which plagues so many mobile homes built prior to 1972. Left un-remediated, this presents a primary fire hazard, as the aluminum wires can split and arc, causing the wall in which they’re embedded to burst into flame. In this respect, we not only prevented a fire but we also potentially saved the lives of the residents.

The volunteers thoroughly enjoyed the lunch donated by Charo Chicken – and they lapped up with great gusto the peach cobbler donated by Johnny Rebs’. Typical volunteer responses to the survey question “What did you like most about your volunteer experience” included “helping out people who are unable to do it themselves, helping and seeing the result”. The Zavalas were almost speechless, uttering only “oooh’s!” and “thank you’s!”, allowing their broad smiles (mingled with a few tears) to express their appreciation. RTLB was extremely gratified to provide assistance to this most deserving family by making their home so much safer than we found it.

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