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It takes a village

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, May 25, 2013

Brenda McComis returned home to an overflowing toilet last Wednesday. And even though water had saturated the carpet and seeped under the baseboards into her master closet, she couldn’t complain.

At least she had a toilet.

“Any other day it would’ve been a burden,” she said. “But that day, all I could be was grateful that I knew who I could call to come fix it. It cost us, but at least we could (pay for it). We know the resources that are out there, and we know how to get them. Not everyone does.”

COMMUNITY EFFORT - A group of Bridgeport Gives Back volunteers takes a break from ripping up flooring, hanging sheetrock, laying tile and painting cabinets during the complete overhaul of a home - one of several projects taken on during five days of community service May 15-19. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

COMMUNITY EFFORT – A group of Bridgeport Gives Back volunteers takes a break from ripping up flooring, hanging sheetrock, laying tile and painting cabinets during the complete overhaul of a home – one of several projects taken on during five days of community service May 15-19. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Brenda and her husband, David, were a resource themselves that day and the proceeding three. They were among the throng of volunteers working through the Bridgeport Gives Back community service initiative.

During four of the designated five days of benevolent projects, the McComis’s led crews that completely remodeled a dilapidated home, starkly visible on one of the busiest streets in town.

“It should have been condemned,” Brenda said when asked about the home’s condition prior to the project.

Volunteers ripped out, jacked up and leveled the flooring inside the home, which had rotted from a water leak. They also sheetrocked and painted every wall in the house.

Others repaired a leak in the kitchen that was diverting running water to the bathroom, which was without fixtures.

When the homeowner returned Saturday, she had a new sink, tub and commode. She also had a newer fridge, new stove (paid for through the missions fund at First United Methodist Church in Bridgeport), tiled counter tops and repainted cabinets in the kitchen.

Volunteers also cleared a jungle-like yard.

“Girls did that,” Brenda added proudly.

Crews worked until 11 p.m. Friday and finished Saturday. All tasks were completed, the work site cleaned and tools loaded back on the trailer by 4 that afternoon.

“I’m just ecstatic about what they did,” said Leanna Brewer, who sought the help for her neighbor. “When they started, I didn’t know they were going to these extremes. She needed the help, but we didn’t know how to get it for her.”

Leanna and her husband, Billy, provided lunch for the group on the second day of the project.

“But that’s not enough,” Billy said. “These people are heroes.”

He pointed in the direction of the home echoing with the thuds of hammers, the buzzing of a table saw and the clash of ceramic tiles. Volunteers, soaked in sweat, stepped out of the uncirculated structure to catch some air – humidity-plagued air left behind by the previous night’s severe storms. And they do it smiling, without a single complaint.

“We don’t have anything to complain about,” Brenda said. “We are fortunate. All we can do is help. We have the tools. We just load them on the trailer and go.”

This wasn’t the first endeavor to which Brenda and David hauled their trailer of tools. The two headed up repairs during last year’s Bridgeport Gives Back, but those were minor in comparison to this one. They have also built ramps and helped their son and other family members with home improvement projects.

“We’re drawn to do this, to help the less fortunate and those who need help because we’ve been there before,” Brenda said, “though we’ve never done anything this big.”

But along with a higher volume of tasks came a more dense network of supporters.

“It takes a whole community doing it,” she said. “The city was a huge help. They hauled off all the trash. We just stacked it on the corner.”

The Brewers downplayed their role in the overhaul, but it was crucial nevertheless.

Leanna typed up a scenario that outlined the improvements she thought each room needed, and Billy drew up floor plans to go with each. They took it to numerous people, none of whom could take on a project of that magnitude.

“I had no idea what to do,” Leanna said.

But through missions at her church, First United Methodist, the couple found Bridgeport Gives Back, and its volunteers came through in a big way.

“It’s a blessing, what they’re doing,” said Diane Fullingim, who also helped provide food for the group. “We have some amazing people here in Bridgeport.”

LENDING A HAND - Brenda McComis and husband David tile the countertops. The couple has helped with various service  efforts, including 2012's Bridgeport Gives Back project. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

LENDING A HAND – Brenda McComis and husband David tile the countertops. The couple has helped with various service efforts, including 2012’s Bridgeport Gives Back project. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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