Westchester resident Jackie Hunt has been given a new perspective on the home she has lived in for more than 30 years.
For most of this decade, Hunt has struggled to get around and do daily activities within her own home. After suffering a stroke at the age of 46 in 2001, Hunt’s speech was impacted and she was left wheelchair-bound, requiring help to access parts of her home, particularly the bathroom.
Making things even more difficult, she is gradually losing her eyesight due to the genetic disease retinitis pigmentosa, which is slowly shrinking her field of vision.
But with the help of Westchester community volunteers who worked together over a weekend late last month to give Hunt’s home a makeover, she says her living situation has taken a turn for the better.
“They fixed the home so that I can do things without needing help,” said Hunt, a mother of four who currently lives in the home with her daughter Valerie, 25, and youngest son Wesley, 16.
Approximately 130 volunteers from the Rotary Club of Westchester and the local community worked to upgrade parts of the Hunts’ home on Gonzaga Avenue Friday through Monday, April 25th through 28th, while the family was treated to a hotel stay and a Disney Hall concert.
Community volunteers lent a hand in the various projects, including making the Hunts’ bathroom compliant with ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) accessibility requirements, painting the inside and outside of the house, installing new flooring and a backyard deck, landscaping and providing new furniture.
The makeover projects were made possible with a $10,000 donation from the William H. Hannon Foundation and $5,000 donations from the H.B. Drollinger Co., Woodside Natural Gas, the Westchester Woman’s Club and the Westchester Rotary Foundation.
When Hunt and her family returned to see the finished product, they expressed gratitude to the many volunteers and excitement to be able to enjoy the new digs.
Jackie Hunt said she was “surprised that [the volunteers] were willing” to spend time touching up her home, but she is thankful that she can now get back to doing everyday things on her own inside her house.
“I was very grateful and thankful because these were things that I couldn’t do myself,” Hunt said of the home improvements. “This is going to be easier for me to do things myself. It makes it easier for me to be independent, which I always tried to be.”
Daughter Valerie Hunt, an environmental chemist who works in Torrance, recently moved back into the home she grew up in and she also said she was shocked to see how the volunteers’ work turned out.
“I was totally speechless,” she said of seeing the home upgrade. “It’s kind of unfathomable all the volunteering that people have done for our family. It means so much to me.”
When learning of the difficulties Jackie Hunt faced in her living environment and the struggles her children dealt with in assisting her, the Rotary Club of Westchester knew their home was one that could use a change, said Geoff Maleman, Rotary Club spokesman.
“We realized that this was the family who we could have the biggest impact on and that doing the project would make a really big difference in their quality of life each day,” Maleman said.
Maleman praised the project and the work of the volunteers who worked “side by side” to enhance the home of the local family.
The Rotary Club noted how the living situation prior to the makeover was especially trying for Hunt’s son Wesley, who has helped his mother maintain the home in addition to assisting her with her needs. The Palisades High School student has been active outside the home as a Westchester Family YMCA lifeguard and is considering attending UC-Santa Barbara.
Valerie Hunt said that despite her mother’s disability, she has dealt with the situation quite well.
“I’m amazed at how independent she is,” she said of her mother. “She’s always been a real tough lady.”
The daughter recalled how challenging the living situation was for her mother, who was unable to get into the bathroom or access the backyard without help, but she said that will all change.
While Jackie is still getting adjusted to a variety of upgrades, she has noticed how much a difference the new bathroom has made, allowing her to get in and out by herself.
As for Valerie, she just can’t wait to show off the place.
“The biggest change for me is that now I have something to take care of,” she said, adding that she is looking forward to having a dinner party.