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May 13, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, May 13, 2005

Firefighters pitch in to fix old house Firefighters pitch in to fix old house (May 13, 2005)

National program aims to keep people in their homes

By Jon Wiener

In August of 1950, Arthur Cocco made a $250 down payment for a new house on Villa Street. After 55 years and 10 children, that once-new house was on the verge of crumbling.

On April 30, Cocco sat in his living room surrounded by local firefighters and city maintenance workers as they put the finishing touches on the house's first renovation and maintenance in half a century. The men had volunteered their off-days to rebuild the home, part of a national program called Rebuilding Together.

"The whole idea of this is to keep a guy who's been here in his place," said firefighter Jeff Smith, one of the organizers of the project.

Saturday, firefighters repainted the house inside and out and installed new kitchen cabinets. Earlier in the week, volunteers ripped out a rotting carpet and a dumpster's worth of other debris and put in a new roof.

Formerly known as Christmas in April, Rebuilding Together is a nationwide program involving millions of volunteers at thousands of sites.

A widower in his late 70's and on a restricted income, Cocco applied for the assistance program through the senior center a few blocks away. A few months later, he was sitting in his living room as firefighters installed his new kitchen sink.

Reflecting on the five sons and five daughters he raised in the house, Cocco smiled and watched a NASCAR race on a television, drowned out by the noise of firefighters working around him.

"If it wasn't for the firefighters of Mountain View, I wouldn't be here enjoying this new house," he said.
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