By CHELCEY ADAMI Staff Writer | 0 comments
What was initially a letter bearing bad news to an El Centro woman morphed into a beautiful gesture between a large group of Valley residents this week.
Laura Felisa Hale, 62, has lived at a home on Euclid Avenue for more than 35 years, and in October, she was surprised to receive a letter from the city of El Centro stating that she couldn't park her van on the grass.
In order to avoid a $500 fine, she would need to either put in pavers or a concrete driveway. Hale called the city and spoke to a woman who was "very nice" and gave her an extension to Nov. 22.
However, "I came to the conclusion that I'll just go to jail if I can't do it. I didn't know what to do," Hale said. "I was kind of dumbfounded because I had lived here so very long."
Having a cemented driveway was a dream of Hale's for many, many years. Her husband of 48 years suffers from dementia resulting from a car accident years ago, and as his caretaker, she struggled many times helping him over the uneven and hole-filled front yard grass.
Hale then went to Home Depot to try to get information on pavers "because they'd always been so good to me and always so courteous."
A cheerful and active woman, she said she doesn't get out as much as she used to but enjoys exploring Home Depot and talking to the workers there, even purposefully parking on the far end of the parking lot so she can make a full-round once inside "to say 'hi' to everyone,'" she said.
She showed an employee there the letter, and the employee made a copy, telling Hale she'd get back to her once she had more information about the project.
Soon, Home Depot pro desk sales associate Hector Oceguera called and, to her surprise, he said would come to the house and help.
"He told me no, we're not going to do the pavers because pavers will move over time. He said we're going to put in cement," Hale said. "Hector said he'd take care of it."
While projects like installing a concrete driveway normally cost between $5,000 and $6,000, Home Depot agreed to donate materials for the job, and Oceguera put in a call to his old teacher Jose Velasquez from Imperial Valley College, who soon promised the help of students from his construction class for the labor.
"It served as a practice so it's a win-win for everybody," Velasquez said. "It's to give back to the community. It's nice helping out. ... It's our first time and we looking forward to doing it more often."
One student, Luis Chavarin, realized he was also Hale's neighbor and offered to come by to water the concrete to help it set after the project finished on Saturday.
And after one more short phone call to Gibson & Schaefer Inc., the Heber company agreed to donate the concrete for the job.
Soon, workers were bustling with equipment in front of Hale's normally quiet home, and from inside the front living room, Hale marveled at the activity outside.
"Getting my husband in and out of the van, I always wanted it. I was just amazed that all these years inside me thinking, 'God, someday, someday,'" Hale said. "We're going to get a cement driveway, and it helps me to help him."
She made food and drinks for the workers every day of the three-day project to show her gratitude.
"We could barely work with all the goodies the last couple of days," Oceguera said while laughing.
"I had never met Hector and it's like, wow, little angels have come to help me with this project," she said.
Hale said she was particularly glad her 7-year-old grandson Daniel was able to see the kind act, and he excitedly made handprints and spelled out his name in a corner of the concrete.
"This will be forever a memory. ... This is really exciting that this is happening," she said.
For Oceguera, the decision to help was simple.
"Good things come back," he said. "If you do good deeds, they come back."
And in a special addition, some of the workers will return Monday to finish details on the driveway as well as to brighten the area with a little landscaping of soil, planters and flowers.
"I'm very thankful. I believe God gets the credit with this one," Hale said. "Besides a $500 fine, who would have known this would have turned into a good thing? It's something I've dreamed about for years."
The original article can be found on the IV Press website.