By Tracy Correa
DOS PALOS – Maria and Ignacio Campos raised six children in a building that once housed a Laundromat and thrift store in this rural Merced County community.
Ignacio Campos is a farmworker. Maria Campos can no longer work outside her home of three decades due to health issues. The water-damaged ceilings are sagging, the paint is peeling, and there is no heating, cooling or ventilation system. The refrigerator doesn’t fit into the makeshift kitchen – instead, it sits on the other side of a long wall that once separated the two former businesses.
But for this hard-working and proud family, this is home and always has been since the day they purchased it because it offered more room than where they had been living next door.
On Saturday (Aug. 4), Habitat for Humanity Westside Merced County and PG&E volunteers began work to transform the Campos home. The plan is to renovate the building — which still resembles a storefront — to include two new bedrooms for the two grandchildren the couple is raising. They also plan to add new electrical and HVAC systems and repair the water-damaged ceiling. And this is only part of the work Habitat hopes to complete by fall.
“It’s a bit of a challenge,” said Ned Ryan, board president of Habitat Westside Merced County, as he briefed volunteers. But that assessment didn’t deter the group, including 10 volunteers from PG&E.
Long-term commitment to solar and Habitat
PG&E recently provided $6,500 in funding to Habitat’s Westside Merced County chapter to go toward solar power and weatherization. Since 2007, PG&E’s Solar Habitat program has contributed more than $8 million for nonprofit Habitat for Humanity International to help respond to the housing needs of California communities.
The Campos home is the first to benefit from PG&E’s new partnership with Habitat Westside Merced County, which this year launched an effort to revitalize homes in Dos Palos, a small city of nearly 5,000 people.
Maria Campos, who speaks only Spanish, watched as volunteers descended on her home. When asked what she looked most forward to, her eyes welled with tears. “Everything,” she answered as her daughter-in-law Gina Salcido translated. Ignacio Campos couldn’t be there to witness the first day of renovation because he went to work at 5:30 a.m.
It was Salcido who reached out to Habitat for help. Now, she is looking forward to spending Thanksgiving at the renovated home of her in laws. “It’s a huge blessing,” said Salcido. “They’ve made so many sacrifices for the family and grandchildren.”
Making a ‘great’ transformation
As work began, Maria Campos kept mostly to herself, marveling from a distance at the outpouring of support. She peeked out from behind a curtain occasionally to greet people, including Merced County Supervisor Jerry O’Banion who stopped by briefly. “I think this is great,” O’Banion said. “It will be good to transform this into a truly residential place.”
Ashlee Williams, development and operations manager for Habitat Westside Merced County, said all families deserve a safe place to live with basic necessities such as heating and cooling. “We’re really, really grateful for PG&E’s support,” she said, adding that the utility’s assistance in weatherization is particularly helpful. “This is a mutually-beneficial partnership,” she said.
Among the most excited to see the renovation was 13-year-old Crystal Campos, one of two grandchildren living in the home. “Finally, I can get my own room,” said Crystal, who currently shares one of two beds in the home with her grandmother.
The effect this project will have on the Campos family was not lost on PG&E volunteer Ken Olstad, a Merced-based customer relationship manager for energy solutions and services. “These people work really, really hard and it’s nice to help people who help themselves,” he said.
E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com