KEYES — San Joaquin Valley Mobile Homes owner Bob Yohanan says he's grown used to thieves breaking into his Keyes business and stealing washers and dryers, dishwashers, copper wiring, fuse boxes and anything else of value from mobile homes on his three-acre lot.
But the crooks who ransacked three mobile homes Wednesday night broke Yohanan's heart.
He plans to donate one of those homes to an Oakdale boy with a life-threatening illness and the boy's family so they can have a better place to live.
"This one was hard on me," Yohanan said. "When I saw what those weasels had done, I was crying. I'm a 75-year-old man. I didn't give a damn about the damage, but I had my heart set on giving that home to the family."
Yohanan said he's been plagued by burglaries for more than 15 years. His mobile home lot fronts Highway 99, and thieves pull over from the highway and walk until they reach his business.
Yohanan said the thieves cut the highway's cyclone fence where the thick oleander bushes growing on the berm screen them from traffic. He blames the California Department of Transportation for not keeping the bushes trimmed low enough.
Caltrans spokesman Ken Paglia said his agency trims the bushes and is required to maintain them under an agreement with Stanislaus County to keep highway dust from nearby roads, businesses and homes. He said the primary purpose of the cyclone fence is to keep people from entering the highway. But, he added, Caltrans has repaired four holes in the fence next to Yohanan's business in the past four months.
Yohanan is working with the organization Special Spaces to help the Oakdale family. The nonprofit typically remakes children's bedrooms, providing them with a sanctuary as they battle their illnesses. But in this case, Special Spaces is helping provide the Oakdale family with a refurbished mobile home to replace its current one.
Special Spaces declined to identify the boy and his family.
The good news, Yohanan said, is that the damage to the 1,345-square-foot, double-wide mobile home can be repaired. The thieves ripped out the dishwasher but left it behind, took the electric range and hot water heater, and cut out and took a nearly 12-by-12-foot section of living-room carpet.
Before the thieves damaged the mobile home, Special Spaces expected it to be ready for the Oakdale family in three to six weeks. It's too soon to say how long if at all the burglary will delay the project.
"Clearly, they did a lot of damage," said Shelley Ham, director of the Special Spaces San Francisco Bay Area chapter. "But it does not appear to be damage we cannot handle. In the end, there is a team of dedicated people behind this mission."
Besides Yohanan, Ham said, she is working on the project with Home Depot in Manteca. Ham said this will be the 20th project she has done since starting the Bay Area chapter 1½ years ago. She said she typically works with Home Depot stores, which provide goods, materials and volunteers. Ham said Mancini's Sleepworld donates the beds.
Ham said Special Spaces usually creates a bedroom that fulfills a child's dreams. For instance, one boy's bedroom was transformed into a homage to the movie "The Nightmare Before Christmas," Tim Burton's animated fantasy mash-up of Christmas and Halloween. She said her chapter will do smaller-scale makeovers for a sick child's siblings.
Ham said most of the children her chapter helps have cancer. Many of them are referred to the nonprofit by Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland, the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University, and the University of California at San Francisco.
For more on Special Spaces, visit www.specialspaces.org.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.