Colorful signs in the yards of four homes in Denver’s diverse Mar Lee neighborhood announced the July Charter our Community and Rebuilding Together Metro Denver signature rebuild event. Mar Lee, in southwest Denver, sprung up after World War II and retains its small town feel. These Mile High city residents know one another and were very aware that heightened activity would be taking place on their street.
More than fifty Charter Communications volunteers, some toting their favorite tools, fanned out at 8 a.m. to their assigned homes and immediately began refurbishment tasks. Hours later, the hot July work day had dampened their now smudged, paint-spattered shirts, but not their spirits.
Here are the stories behind the four homes that were rebuilt and the grateful homeowners who now have a safer and healthier environment to live in. Be sure to watch all of the videos from the Denver event, too!
The Stars and Stripes fluttered and a weathervane replica of a DC-3, the plane that Tony parachuted from into the Pacific Theater during World War II, turned in the breeze. Tony, 90, has lived in his home for 13 years; he’s been a Mar Lee resident since 1950. His wife of 70 years, Mary Louise, passed away last year.
Tony is trying to politely stay out of the way of Charter our Community and Rebuilding Together volunteers, finding a quiet, shady spot under a catalpa tree he grew from a seedling. The nonagenarian, who took a bullet and shrapnel in both legs during his eight years in the United States Army, including the Battle of Corregidor, moves slowly but his mind is sharp.
Today the volunteers will clean gutters, plaster a bathroom ceiling and replace his well-worn carpet with attractive new flooring. The new flooring not only makes his living and dining rooms appear more spacious, it also eliminates the possibility of him tripping.
“This day has been a most fulfilling and heart-warming,” said Don Poulter, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations. “It’s a great opportunity to work along-side our Charter team and to get to know wonderful people like Tony.”
Charter folks on the floor detail in the hallway caught glimpse of Tony’s framed WWII combat medals on his home office wall, including a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts the soft-spoken veteran received as a member of the Army’s Parachute 503rd Infantry Regiment. “It was a privilege to help Tony. He’s had a remarkable life and our Charter volunteers took great care to do the job as though it were our own home. The floor looks great and we were proud of what we accomplished” said Theresa Damian, a Charter Senior Program Manager.
“Having Charter and Rebuilding Together come in and do this sure helps,” says Tony. “I’ve never had anybody help me do anything like this. I’ve always kind of done it myself, but there comes a time when you get too old to do certain things… it’s sure nice to have people who want to help you.”
Luiz and Cruzita’s Home
“Be careful on the walk,” Cruzita warns … “and watch the loose boards on the porch”, she adds. Within just a few hours, these unsafe parts of her home will be repaired.
Cruzita, 71 and her husband Luiz, 75, have owned this home for 47 years and raised their three children in the Mar Lee neighborhood. Unfortunately, Luiz’s health has been compromised by three heart surgeries over the past few years.
Things Luiz used to be able to take care of around the house are too much for him today and the changes needed to live safely in their home are beyond their means. They worked hard for what they have but, needed help in making repairs that allow them to continue living safely and securely in their home.
Charter our Community volunteers secured loose and raised boards on the front porch, sanded and stained the front deck and repaired the concrete front walk. Inside, smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher were added. And in the backyard, a rotted wooden awning was replaced it with a sturdy new structure.
Charter Communications Systems Engineer Daniel Coello Villacis helped paint the kitchen walls, ceiling and the laundry room. “It was really great to see the kitchen redone. When we were finished, it looked brand new! It’s a pretty great feeling at the end of the day knowing the time you spent produced something nice for someone who is so grateful,” Daniel added.
The home’s exterior also got a thorough makeover. Gutters were cleaned, new downspouts put into place and leaf guards installed. Stunning new landscaping bloomed on the front lawn.
“Not being able to keep up your home is overwhelming,” said Luiz. “It weighs on you and I can tell you there are plenty of sleepless nights worrying about what needs to be done. It feels good to look around and see our home looking so good.”
“The number of volunteers who came to help was impressive and everything was focused on helping, said Carl Frey, Director of Information Technology. “There was a sense of ownership in the work we were doing. If someone finished the task they were assigned, they went looking for something else they could help accomplish. I was impressed with the amount and quality of things our team was able to accomplish for Luiz and Cruzita.”
Sharon and her 14-year-old daughter have lived in their cozy house for four years. Sharon suffers from glaucoma. She works part-time in food service at the Denver Public School District where she helps feed about 500 children each day.
Sharon enjoys walking in the neighborhood and chatting with her neighbors. This is a community where summer brings folks outside to tend their lawns, visit with neighbors or just sit under one of the many massive old trees. On Sharon’s patio, the slightest breeze ripples over her substantial collection of beloved wind chimes.
“I interacted with Sharon throughout the day,” said Stephen Webster, Spectrum Business Vice President of Carrier Sales. “Often we would call her over to what we were working on for guidance, to know exactly how she wanted certain things done. She clearly takes pride in her home and it was great to know that we were doing things exactly as she wanted them.”
Outside, leaf-filled gutters were cleaned, leaf guards installed, downspouts extended and landscaping beautified her lawn. Dark green paint was meticulously applied to trim on her garage and windows, which also were repaired and caulked. For Sharon and her daughter, the most dramatic changes included a bedroom ceiling fan, repairs to a closet wall and ceiling, new curtain rods, new dryer vent and replacement of pocket doors covering the furnace.
At the end of the day, Sharon and her team gathered for a photo. “She was beaming and couldn’t stop exclaiming about the transformation that had taken place at her home,” recalled Carol Lopez, Leadership Development Specialist.
No longer worried about mounting home repairs that she was unable to take on, Sharon exclaimed that the work done by Charter our Community volunteers to her home is “life changing… big time!” Holding her arms wide, Sharon said, “It’s all about BIG hearts!”
Ken and Norma’s Home
In this neighborhood, Ken and Norma are known as the holiday folks. The couple decorates for all holidays. “But for Halloween, we go all out,” says Ken. “It’s a fright festival and the entire yard is [filled with] spooky monsters and zombies. We fill three 20-gallon containers with every candy you can think of and the kids love it. We want them to have a safe Halloween.”
Ken, 65, knows many of his neighbors he greets when he walks every day in Garfield Lake Park, just a few minutes away. Norma, 70, has debilitating arthritis that prohibits her activities and the couple suffers from breathing issues.
Their 748-square-foot house was built by Ken’s aunt and uncle in 1948 and he and Norma inherited it and made it their home in 1995. They love their house, their neighbors and their neighborhood. “There are some people in the world who don’t appreciate what they’ve got,” said Ken. “If you’ve ever been without, you learn to appreciate and be proud of what you do have. This house is ours and even if we were rich, we wouldn’t ever want to live anywhere else.”
But no matter how hard Ken tries to keep things going, what 67-year-old home doesn’t require some work to be safer? According to Ken, “I’ve never been able to get everything the way we’d like to… we don’t have the resources or the money.”
Outside, volunteers installed new fencing and new house numbers. Windows are caulked for cold weather, trim is refreshed and in the backyard, a much needed garden shed was assembled. Inside, the bathroom sink is now working and a new garbage disposal was installed and kitchen faucet replaced.
Network Engineer Tony Mendez was amazed at what was accomplished. “Our teamwork really kicked in and we worked well as a group to figure things out. When we finished and looked around, we felt really good.”
The Charter our Community volunteer paint patrol prepares a garage door for a fresh coat
Volunteers gather in the neighborhood’s Garfield Park before heading to their assigned homes
A Charter our Community volunteer puts up new address numbers on Ken and Norma's home
Dave, the husband of Charter volunteer Diane, proves that being tall is an asset
Charter Project Coordinator Kathy Carrington was busy with indoor and outdoor projects at Sharon’s home
Charter House Captain Aldona Rayton finishes repairing her first screen of many