A year ago this month, Maria Coelho was diagnosed with cancer. Now, having just finished her radiation treatment, and with her chemotherapy near its end, she was celebrating recovery by walking the American Cancer Society’s Turlock Relay for Life on Saturday morning.
The annual Love Turlock event also happened to be Saturday, and while Coelho was gone, more than a dozen volunteers worked hard and fast to surprise her with a mini-makeover of her home. They painted the front of the small Julian Street house and a stretch of fence, laid paving stones she’d had stacked up in back, planted flowers and groundcover in the yard and in containers, and put down landscaping bark. They even planted a tree in the front lawn.
After roughly four hours of work, they were off – no time to wait around for Coelho’s reaction when she’d return in the afternoon. But her daughter, Kristina Coelho, who got her mom on the project list for Love Turlock, said Maria was going to be blown away by the wonderful job the volunteers did. “She’s a trooper – she deserved this,” said Kristina, who had told her mom that she didn’t make the list but a neighbor did.
Kristina was appreciative of, and impressed by, the effort, which included plants donated by Orchard Supply Hardware and Lowe’s and paint and labor by Lancaster Painting. She expected a one-color paint job, but her mom’s blue home ended up with attractive gray accents and even new wooden trim around the front window.
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The sprucing-up of Maria Coelho’s home was just one of dozens of projects tackled Saturday morning by Love Turlock volunteers, whose numbers may have topped 1,000, said Craig Brooks, Love Turlock planning team leader. Other labors of Love included painting the interior of the Prodigal Sons & Daughters ministry building; doing weeding and yard cleanup for people unable to do it themselves; assorted small home improvements and repair, such as installing a missing bathroom window, fixing leaky plumbing for a senior and doing drywall repair for a single mother; and buffing and rejuvenating the wood floors at Turlock Gospel Mission’s Homeless Assistance Ministry.
Love Turlock includes some general community cleanup, but most of the effort is directed specifically at families and individuals, Brooks said. “We go into the community and walk the underserved areas,” leaving fliers and knocking on doors, he said. “That’s how we get some of these projects.” People also can apply online to be a project, as Kristina Coelho did.
“We’re about going out and connecting with people in need more than going out to a park and cleaning it up,” Brooks said. As another example, he said a trio of volunteers took several senior citizens out for a morning of fishing. The seniors don’t venture out on their own, he said, so the morning was about getting them out for some fresh air and fun.
Turlock Covenant Church held a health and safety fair, which was started by the 12:10 Lions Club eight years ago before it joined forces with Love Turlock. It featured information and services from a variety of organizations, including MedicAlert, child car seat safety inspections and replacement of damaged or obsolete seats, blood-pressure checks, children’s activities, and displays by police, fire and medical agencies.
Qualified residents who attended the fair were able to pick up bags or boxes of free food.
Sandy Anderson, president of the 12:10 Lions, said it’s important to inform residents of the services available to them. “On the west side especially, a lot of people don’t know what’s out there,” she said.
Her husband, Terry Anderson, is 12:10 Lions past president and has been chairman of the health and safety fair since its start. “We try to cover all the bases to get people the help they need,” he said. “There are people with medical problems who don’t know where to go.”
To ensure that fair attendees left with food for thought as well as food for their stomachs, they had to collect 10 stickers that indicated they spoke with the various providers there. Only then could they pick up groceries. “The smartest thing we did,” Terry Anderson said, “was tying the booth visits to the food.”