The Grinch who stole Christmas for the residents of La Loma Senior Apartments this week got to see what the hearts of a community growing three sizes looked like on Friday.
The 40-some seniors living the housing complex at La Loma and Santa Barbara avenues woke up Monday morning to see all of the lights and decorations that apartment manager Babette Bowen had put up for them were stolen, right down to the extension cords.
Bowen said she put up about $400 to $500 worth of her own personal decorations, from lights to lawn ornaments, the previous week for all of the residents most of them low-income seniors between the ages of 60 and 85 to enjoy.
"I've put the decorations up the last two years in a row," Bowen said. "Some of these people wouldn't know it was Christmas if I didn't put them up they don't leave the complex much."
She said she was upset after the holiday cheer was stolen, and posted on Facebook as well as writing a letter to the editor to The Bee.
Which is when Christmas decided to come after all, thanks to the donations of community members. DJ Joey Bueller at the Rock Station 96.7 FM asked listeners to bring decoration donations to the station. Other offerings were delivered directly to the complex.
Then Tony Hamberg, aka the Christmas Light Guy, offered his services free of charge to get the the lights back on at the complex. This is Hamberg's busiest time of year, hanging lights for the holiday season, but he spent more than two hours and brought two two-man crews to help restore holiday joy.
"I wanted to offer our services and our time to put them up to pay it forward and give it back to the community," he said. "I feel I am truly blessed with this business. And when the people who lived there thanked me, I just said, 'Merry Christmas.' That's why we do what we do."
Bowen estimates the complex has received three times the lights and decorations that were stolen. And the folks who live there also have back a little of the spirit of the season.
Residents thanked Hamberg as he hung the lights, most with smiles and some with tears in their eyes.
"It's awesome. I know Modesto is known for its crime sometimes. We have a bad element here," Bowen said. "But there are a lot of good and generous people in Modesto, too."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on www.twitter.com/turlocknow.