About 20 people gathered and faced a nearly 6-foot-tall stack of wood, metal, and other debris in the corner of Teresa Rankin’s backyard on Saturday morning as her 7-year-old lab, Keef, excitedly made new friends.
Teresa’s request was simple; she has been slowly cleaning up property that has been in her family for three generations, and she was ready to clear up a specific corner. Her overall cleanup process began after her step-father passed away three years ago. He loved cats and had a shelter better described as a cat run in the backyard. This area provided shelter for his cats as well as stray cats in the neighborhood.
The tall stack in the corner was made up of the remains from the shelter that had been in the corner for the past two years. Keef awaited more space in his yard, and Teresa humbly kept her request to clear the tall stack despite other debris and overgrown branches across the yard. Unfortunately, a disability and other health issues have prevented her from cleaning up her own yard.
Teresa watched as the stack began to dwindle. “Nobody understands how much this helps me,” she said. As the morning passed, Teresa mentioned future projects she had in mind, and the volunteers helped make those long-term dreams become a reality by lunchtime on Saturday. The team pulled weeds and cleaned other items from the yard and her shed.
A group of seven volunteers from Perficient were part of the cleanup crew. This is not their first Extreme Community Makeover project and their fast action in the morning demonstrated their enthusiasm and experience. However, Erica Dixon, with Perficient drove from Longmont to volunteer with ECM for the first time. She was not quite sure what to expect, but she knew she wanted to help and in the end she was pleased with the experience. “Getting outside and working with people is great,” Dixon said. “I like to be out in the sun with coworkers as a group thing.”
Kristen Roth, also with Perficient, has volunteered with ECM before. She reflected on the effects of Saturday’s work as she raked debris. “I can’t imagine where you would start with one or two people,” Roth said. “Hopefully now that it’s started, it will be easier to maintain.”
The volunteers from Perficient were joined by individuals from the community, including a pair of friends who are 12 and 13 years old. “We are trying to get them involved in thinking about something outside themselves,” said Sarah Jewell, one of the girls’ mothers.
Jewell and her family moved to Denver from San Diego in October and this was their second time volunteering with ECM. Her daughter, Emma Pronovost, brought along a friend this time, and they quickly declared that painting over graffiti on Teresa’s back gate was their favorite task of the day. “It’s really cool to help people when they can’t help themselves,” said Natasha Kolk, 13, as she brushed paint over graffiti.
The recent past has included multiple challenges for Teresa including breast cancer, which she beat about a year ago, and the loss of her mother, which happened about three months ago. ECM volunteers left a different kind of impact in her life.
“Whoa! This has never looked so good,” Teresa exclaimed when she walked outside to the clean yard on Saturday afternoon. “I ain’t seen that corner of the yard in years.” Keef joined Teresa as they took a tour of the spacious yard.
“Look at this,” Teresa said to Keef as they walked to the corner that nearly towered to the top of the fence just a few hours prior. “We have a yard.”