Last week, Steve Liao and Sandee Wiedemann represented the group at Mayor Mike Shimansky's monthly breakfast to ask everyone to please, please help them find people who need their assistance. They have plenty of volunteers, Steve said, but they need to find the people who could really use their help at this year's fifth annual event being held Saturday, Oct. 20.
They've helped people living from Walnut Creek to Livermore, Steve said. It's usually not an economic need in this area, he noted, but rather a matter of people being overwhelmed.
He told me about one single mother in Danville whose kids were brushing their teeth in the kitchen sink and drying their hair in the kitchen, too, because the bathroom drain was clogged and the bathroom electrical circuit had blown. The mother didn't have the know-how to fix the problems or the time during the week when she was at work to call a plumber or electrician.
Steve said people might be referred to them by neighbors or through senior help lines. Sometimes emergency personnel who answer calls for assistance will report that a couple needs help.
"If code enforcement sees senior citizens with an overgrown yard, maybe if the neighbors complained, they give us a call," he explained. "We make ourselves available and they ask the people if they would be willing to let us clean the yard rather than be cited."
One large project was for an elderly woman in San Ramon, whose house had become so cluttered that rodents were becoming a problem in the neighborhood. First she gave Building Bridges permission to clip her hedges. Once they gained her trust, they sent her away for six weeks and Lennar builders brought in a crew to refurbish the house and even install new appliances. When she moved back in, her neighbors came by to celebrate and her family again began to visit.
"There was lots of healing," Steve said. "It turned into a situation of community pride. Now she makes everyone take their shoes off when they come in."
Most cases are not so dramatic. But they do give people a new lease on life as their yard magically gets up to snuff, or their minor home repairs are done. Plus they have made some new friends and know that someone cares about them. Building Bridges meets at San Ramon Presbyterian Church, but its volunteers are just people who love their community and want to do something. Community Presbyterian Church in Danville joins together with the town for a similar day in April called Lend a Hand.
Building Bridges has done work with families who have members in wheelchairs, and has built ramps and installed handrails. Steve told me about another single mom in Danville whose husband had just left her with three kids, plus she took in her sister's three children.
"The oldest kid was in a wheelchair, and the mom was working two jobs to make ends meet," recalled Steve. "What she wanted was to make her garage to be a warm, safe place for the kids to play."
They first cleared a lot of clutter from the garage, and then they brought in volunteer contractors, who put in electricity and built a wheelchair ramp. Danville building inspectors even came out on the weekend. The kids now have a warm, safe play area.
Steve said the 300 or so volunteers will meet Friday night to form teams of five to 10 people, and to figure out who will do what. Projects usually take about six hours and most frequently entail weed abatement, yard cleanup, window cleaning, gutter cleaning, minor plumbing, electrical or carpentry repairs. The group can also use donated materials and financial support.
But right now the biggest need is to find people to help so if you know of someone, call 543-7772 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. It might be a newly single woman or someone whose spouse has been deployed to Iraq or someone who, for whatever reason, has been overwhelmed by life lately. Help to build bridges in our community.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.