It was late in the afternoon on an unseasonably warm autumn day when Stella Esparza slowly emerged from her freshly painted front door. The commotion taking place there in her front yard must have finally sparked a sense of curiosity, so she stepped outside to investigate.
What she found was chaos. Dozens of Firehouse teammates scurried back-and-forth painting, landscaping and touching up numerous projects throughout the property. But it was the new handrail that really caught her attention.
She walked forward, and investigated the unexpected project.
“It’s wonderful,” she said, running her hand against the new wood. “Just wonderful.”
The simple expression of gratitude caused a brief pause in the busy afternoon. Those of us nearby stopped to watch as she inspected the newest addition to the home she first moved into in 1982.
For Ezparza, the handrail, which stretched from the street up a handful of steps and stopped just outside her front door, was more than cosmetic. It was an unexpected pillar of freedom.
“It just gives me a sense of security,” Esparza said. “It’s something I now use just about every day. I have something now that helps me get to the car and back. It helps me maintain my independence and quality of life.”
The spirited and gracious woman, who cooked tamales for our group of more than 30 volunteers, has been battling liver cancer since February. Chemotherapy pills have since made routine trips to the grocery store and doctors offices more difficult as her energy and balance struggle to combat the vicious side effects.
The new handrail was one of many projects Firehouse completed that afternoon as part of our annual Make a Difference Day. With several teams, we were able to apply a fresh coat of paint to the exterior of the house, update the kitchen, plant new flowers in the front yard and much more.
And we couldn’t have been happier to help someone like Stella. She was hand picked by Dallas’ People Helping People Program as our partner. Upon hearing her story and the opportunity that came with it, our goal quickly came into sight.
“At the end of the day you could see the joy on her face,” said Doug Miller, Firehouse Partner and Make a Difference Day Coordinator. “Stella is facing some pretty tough health issues at the moment, so it was extra rewarding to help her out. By simply making some home repairs, painting the house, remodeling the kitchen and cleaning up the landscaping, I think we were able to make a big difference for Stella and her family.”
Through more than seven hours of work to her home, it was evident in her reaction that we were able to do just that.
“It was just beyond words,” Esparza said. “I don’t have enough words to describe how thankful I am. I’m so proud of my house now.”