On a warm September day, an army of volunteers dropped in on a little-noticed neighborhood in south Sacramento and helped repair some of the poorest housing stock in the region.
Becky and Rennie Mero, who have owned their home for 34 years and are disabled, couldn't believe the gifts that rained down that day.
Volunteers with the nonprofit Rebuilding Together Sacramento hauled out debris, painted the exterior, built a new fence and installed ceiling fans, faucets, safer electrical outlets and grab bars in the bathroom.
Not long afterward in early December, as the rains of winter began bearing down, a smaller rebuilding crew came back, this time to caulk the windows, insulate the water heater pipes and weatherize the doorways.
Gratitude never had such full expression.
"Nobody has ever done anything like this for us," said Becky Mero, who drove a school bus until she became unable to work with back and other health problems. "They touched my heart and made me cry."
Rebuilding Together Sacramento hosts massive home repair days using volunteer labor and donated supplies each September and April. On Sept. 29, 18 homes in the Meros' neighborhood were repaired by as many 100 volunteers per home, said Katy Zane, resource and program manager.
The nonprofit focuses especially on low-income homeowners, particularly seniors and people with disabilities. Many have lived with leaky roofs, no heat, unsafe bathing facilities and broken stairs for years.
Rebuilding Together also provides weekly services to make homes safer and more weatherproof through its Safe at Home and Home Energy Conservation programs, and recently began a Critical Repair Program for urgent situations.
Since 1991, the program has helped more than 4,000 families and individuals, and has provided repairs and modifications to 82 community facilities, Zane said, adding that volunteers are always welcome.
In early December, after Home Energy Conservation volunteers Joe Finney and Bob Agee joined Zane in weatherproofing the Meros' home, Rebuilding Together gained a new volunteer: Rennie Mero.
Mero, a former forklift driver and warehouse laborer, has arthritis in his spine such that he can be active only a short time before needing rest.
He was so grateful to the program that he hopes to begin volunteering for short stints installing safety grab bars for others in need.
"I want to give back," he said.
During the big semiannual building days, 1,000 to 1,500 volunteers take part, Zane said.
Unfortunately, the group's supply of wheelbarrows is so low it causes slow-downs.
For that reason, the program is asking Book of Dreams readers to help purchase a set of new wheelbarrows and spare tires to help the rebuilding effort.
NEEDED: New wheelbarrows and spare tires for the nonprofit Rebuilding Together Sacramento.