The exterior paint was "prison gray."
Some of the electrical wiring was shot.
The steps to the backyard were so steep and precarious that Al Morey was afraid to navigate them.
"If you'd seen this house a few hours hours ago, you wouldn't have recognized it," Morey, 76, said as she leaned on her cane, admiring the work of a platoon of volunteers wielding hammers, circular saws and paintbrushes.
She and her husband of 47 years, Army veteran Jerold "Jerry" Morey, could hardly believe the good fortune bestowed upon them Thursday by a program sponsored by Home Depot and a local nonprofit group.
The program seeks to upgrade homes and other buildings to benefit needy military veterans like Jerry Morey, who served in Japan and Korea in the early 1950s and later drove a Rainbow bread truck in Sacramento.
Morey used to be handy around the house, tackling everything from plumbing to electrical work, he said. But age and health problems have slowed him down.
Jerry Morey has survived heart and cancer surgery. His wife suffers from painful spinal stenosis and fibromyalgia.
But both were sporting sunny attitudes Thursday as they witnessed the transformation of their home.
Al Morey, who wore a red manicure on her fingernails and dangly silver earrings, recalled her husband's nightly visits years ago to Tahso, the Folsom Boulevard restaurant where she worked as a waitress. "He had an attitude problem, and he never tipped!" she said. They poked each other teasingly as they told stories, their rat terrier J.J. at their feet.
A slim man dressed in an argyle sweater and black slacks, Jerry Morey watched Thursday as younger folks brightened and upgraded the home where he and his wife have lived for more than four decades.
Volunteers in orange shirts installed railing, replaced floor tiles, fixed plumbing and electrical glitches, and smoothed out bumps in the landscaping that threatened to trip up the couple every time they ventured outside. Earlier, they put a new roof on the home.
"I never could have afforded this," said Jerry Morey, fighting tears. "This will make our house much more comfortable, and safer for my wife. There's no way to describe how grateful we are."
It all came courtesy of the Home Depot Foundation, which together with nonprofit groups like Rebuilding Together Sacramento is sponsoring a two-month volunteer campaign to make life easier for U.S. military veterans and their families. The Celebration of Service initiative will include hundreds of projects, from house renovations to upgrades of veterans hospitals, across the nation.
Jerry Morey found out about the program a couple of months ago from Victorie Mahlet, who works at the Home Depot on Florin Road, where he is a customer.
"One thing led to another, and the next thing you know here they are!" he said, gesturing toward Mahlet, who was stroking blue paint across the side of the home.
The swarm of activity at the Morey home drew curious stares and questions from the couple's neighbors. "They probably think we won the Lotto!" Al Morey said.
It was almost better than that, she reckoned.
Al Morey woke at 4 a.m. in anticipation of the work crews, which began arriving around 6. Jerry said he felt as though his heart was about to jump out of his chest.
Hours later, their house was a pleasing light blue color, with white trim. The interior featured soothing shades of green paint. The bathroom was getting a new floor, and rails were being installed alongside steps in several doorways to help the couple steady themselves.
What did Al Morey think about it all?
"I have been crying quite a lot," she said. "I can hardly believe it's happening."
For information about the Celebration of Service program for veterans, or other projects to assist low-income, elderly or disabled homeowners, contact Rebuilding Together Sacramento at (916) 455-1880 or www.rebuildingtogethersacramento.org