Five Homes in Crestline Rebuilt Together by Mountain Community - Mountain News : News

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Five Homes in Crestline Rebuilt Together by Mountain Community

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Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2019 9:00 am

There are many risks that come with being unable to complete maintenance around a home, especially when dealing with the weather conditions in the mountain community, which can compromise stairways, decks and even the foundation a home rests on. 

Those risks are exacerbated and often forcibly ignored when there is not enough money for the repairs. But for the 11th year in a row, Rebuilding Together Mountain Communities has helped solve these and countless other issues for five residents on the mountain. 

This year, the program had about 250 volunteers who helped low-income mountain residents fix critical issues in their homes. 

Rebuilding Together is a national organization founded in 1973 in Midland, Texas, after a small group of people saw a growing need for home rehabilitation in their community. Since then, the program has spread all across the county and eventually to our mountain communities.

At a minimum donation of $1,500 each, 14 house sponsors pitched in to finance the work that needed to be done in the five homes, all of which were located in Crestline this year. 

In order to qualify to be a recipient of the Rebuilding Together program, residents must be considered low- or extremely low-income and have had their home for more than two years. Out of the 16 applicants Rebuilding had this year, five were chosen for Rebuilding Day and another three were designated as emergency repairs, which means they received repairs before the Rebuilding Day because of the severity of their problems. 

“I love watching the enthusiasm of the community,” said Rebuilding Together Mountain Communities Secretary Sue Parks. “When they gather in the morning and they are all excited before they even get to their job … at the end of the day, when everyone comes back … it melts my heart.” 

House One

Helen Spencer Braden is no stranger to the Rebuilding Together program. In fact, this is the third time she has received their help restoring her previous house which had been burned in the Old Fire of 2003.

“I lived in Cedar Glen the first time,” Braden said. “It was an absolutely outstanding experience. I heard about it through a friend who said they had done her cabin. I said ‘They did all that?’ And here they are, again, doing all of that.”

After Braden’s Cedar Glen home was chosen by Rebuild Together, a newspaper reporter did a story on the work that was being done to her home. That article eventually reached a family member who she had not had spoken with for many years. 

“My granddaughter had seen it at school,” Braden said as tears ran down her face. “There was a rift in the family, and we had not been able to see her since she was 3. When she saw that article, she said ‘I remember this place. I think this may be a sign. I am going back there.”

“That was the beginning of the healing of that (relationship),” Braden added. 

Rebuilding Together worked on several parts of Braden’s property, including cleaning and staining a covered parking lot, cleaning out her yard of debris and trash, fixing fixtures and ornaments around the property and replacing the hot water heater, which had recently been battered by the heavy storms. 

“During one of the wind and snow storms, I looked out this window and, in the snow, I noticed there was a door lying in the snow,” Braden said. “As I gave it some consideration I realized it was the door to my hot water heater. I gave it to Alice, the team captain of my house, and then she told her boyfriend and he said ‘I’ll put my boots back on.’ It was night, it was snowing, and he trudged out there in the snow and put the door back up.”

Braden’s home was sponsored by Lake Arrowhead Rotary, Union Bank and KADTEC and coordinated by Wayne Palmer, Daniel Palmer and Allison Banner.

Home Two

Shirley Easton received new carpet, flooring, a repaired closet, a new deck and stairs, as well as clean appliances, a tidy yard and a patched bathroom.

“(Easton) did need a lot of stuff,” said Rochelle Dafnis, Easton’s granddaughter, who had applied to the program on Shirley’s behalf. “She has been in this house, I think, since the 50s. She is not the original owner but she’s never lived anywhere else except for this house. She came up here with her family and her husband. She has outlived everyone except for my husband; she has outlived two sons, a husband, a significant other; she’s very healthy.”

Before Rebuilding Day, Easton had suffered an injury that required her to stay at a facility that could monitor her care, but she was able to come for a visit during the day to see all the work that was being done. 

Dafnis said Easton was excited about the program and all of the work that was being done.

Accessible Construction, Lake Arrowhead Community Presbyterian Church and Mountain Storage sponsored Easton’s home. Adam Fine, August Ambrozic, Rudy Westervelt and Karyn Westervelt coordinated this location. 

Home Three

Dolores Maloney was dealing with a deck she said was worrisome to use. Because of the holes in the paneling, she would have to stack furniture and fixtures outside of the broken areas so that her dogs would not fall off the steep drop. 

“I found out through my daughter … I was very excited because I thought ‘What is it that they are going to do here that I don’t have to pay for?” Maloney said. “They come and see what you need help with and they did! A whole bunch of people came after a couple of weeks. I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe the amount of work they were willing to do.” 

The deck was painted a deep green color and the panels were replaced by the volunteers, along with other repairs and fixes around the house. 

This home was sponsored by O-Ongo / Pali Mountain and the Ted Roy Foundation. Lake Gregory Community Church also contributed to the repair efforts. Jeff Markovich and Caren Cassidy coordinated the repairs on this home. 

House Four

“I applied for the program last year. Then the committee came by and reviewed the deck and they decided after about a couple of weeks … they had their meeting and then they notified me,” said Eva Garza, who lives alone in her home.  

“I was so relieved,” Garza added. “I didn’t know how I was going to deal with the problems. The deck had termites and there was wood rot and it was really wobbly and loose and kind of scary to walk around. I was extremely relieved and happy that they selected my house.”

Many of the problems that Rebuilding Day was repaired were caused or worsened by the severe storming weather that has been happening this year. 

“The tropical storms that we had this year were really, really strong. Some water got in under the foundation and flooded the foundation … it was a big mess,” Garza said. “I knew that something had to be done about it …”

Garza’s house was sponsored by Mountain Sunrise Rotary, DiCarlo Trust and Joan Leopold Brown. Pat Brennan, Jed Riach, Scott Markovich, Cliff Sharp and Lori Brennan coordinated this home. 

Home Five 

Donna Foley’s house was sponsored by Crest Forest Senior Citizens and Lake Arrowhead Hobie Fleet 434. The project was coordinated by Matt Brule and Leann Burrous. She received work to the front of her deck and other minor work around her home. 

“They just did so much more than I even ever hoped for … they are just wonderful,” Foley said. “I just can’t praise them enough. They are just down to earth, warm, very giving. It just makes you feel good to know there are such caring people in our town.”

As a token of appreciation, Foley wrote the following poem, which was read aloud at a celebratory dinner by Burrous:


“Rebuilding Together, Wow! What a crew!

I’m blown away with all that they do!

They’ve chosen to help me, a tattered old dame

Who is cranky and bossy, a little bit lame. 


My home that I love and have lived in for years,

All the work needed compounded my fears!

What can I do, to whom do I turn?

Rebuilding Together is what I did learn!


I turned in my app, they called me to say

My home had been chosen for Rebuilding Day!

Now I am waiting, pure joy in my heart!

Can’t hardly wait for their work to start!


A group on our mountain, volunteers all

Ready and willing to answer your call. 

The work that is needed, be it small or grand

They’re here to help by lending a hand!”

Christian Shepherd can be reached at

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