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Orange County Focus

COSTA MESA : Building Goodwill Is All in a Day's Work

April 22, 1993|LYNDA NATALI

Brian Schoffman usually spends his days crunching numbers as a loan officer for Monarch Funding. But on Wednesday, he traded in his calculator to become a weed eater.

Armed with a pickax, Schoffman spent two hours digging up stubborn weeds in the front yard of June and Walter Kleeman.

One day each year, as part of American Home Week, real estate agents, brokers and lenders tuck away their inflation charts and "For Sale" signs to help an elderly couple spruce up their home.

For some, like Schoffman, the transition to handyman isn't always an easy one. Taking a break, he wiped his forehead, checked his pager, then went back to digging.

"I figure I'm good for about four hours of manual labor," Schoffman said. "After this, I will probably need about two weeks off."

As Schoffman talked, dozens of people ran around in a sort of controlled chaos. The 70 volunteers had been at the Kleeman residence since 8 a.m. They painted the 30-year-old house, replaced the dilapidated fence, replanted giant birds of paradise in the front yard, installed sprinklers and built a back-yard shed.

It was like an old-fashioned barn raising, but without the barn.

June Kleeman, who would say only that she is in her 70s, walked around surveying the changes to her home. She and her husband have lived on Duke Place for 30 years. They moved to California from New York, where they met during World War II. She was working in a defense factory assembling radar equipment. He was her inspector.

The corner lot is one of the largest in the tract, which was built in the late 1950s. They were attracted to its size, June Kleeman said. She would spend many hours planting hundreds of purple, red and orange flowers. At one time, more than 50 kinds of geraniums filled her back yard.

But after her husband had bypass surgery three years ago, the house became just too much to keep up.

"You get to the point where it seems hopeless," she said. "It just piles up, and you don't know where to start."

A friend told her about the local home improvement day, which is sponsored by the Newport-Mesa Assn. of Realtors, so she decided to apply. The Kleemans were chosen out of about 12 applicants.

"We are always looking for someone who really needs the improvement but can't do it themselves," said Rose Carey, who helped coordinate the effort. "They are a great couple. They are very excited about it."

Many months of planning go into the one-day project. Several local businesses donate not only labor but also supplies and services.

Tom Moore of New West Builders brought a crew of three men to put up a storage shed. And painter Paul Fernandez helped oversee painting the house and new fence.

"What makes it work is the volunteers," Carey said.

Before Wednesday's work began, the Kleemans' house was fumigated and primed for painting. Because of all the donations, Carey estimates that it will cost the realtors group less than $1,000.

Jerry Brooks and Ray Zartler are home improvement veterans. Their specialty is fences.

"Last year, it was a little tougher terrain," said Brooks, in between cutting posts with a circular saw. "We had to remove ivy vines."

By 11 a.m. the posts for the 75-foot cedar fence were installed. After lunch, the workers began nailing in the slats.

"No matter how busy we are, we always come," Brooks said. "It is really gratifying to see the looks on the owners' faces at the end of the day."

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