Behind every home there is a story, and the story of Loyola Marymount University (LMU) English professor Scott Odom’s family is both uplifting and heart-breaking. The front of the Odom house, with its peeling paint and weed-filled lawn, disguised the love and the sacrifices this family has made for each other over the past few years.
Odom spends his days shaping young minds through his love of literature. But the strength and happy disposition Scott shows on the outside masks a life-and-death battle going on inside his body.
For the past seven years, he has fought a rare cancer, costing his family a small fortune. Scott takes a wide variety of medications every day to reduce the pain. He has undergone multiple surgeries and continues to be plagued by the invasive disease.
Although he suffers from debilitating back and leg pain, he continues to show up for work and care for his loving wife, Christine, a school nurse; and their three children, Zachary, 15; Georgia, 12; and Rachel, nine.
Although their bond as a family has not wavered during this time of uncertainty, their home has suffered. Unable to do the work required to keep up the house and unable to find the funds to pay for home improvements after paying for Scott’s medication and doctors, the Odoms’ home was desperately in need of some real TLC.
When members of the Rotary Club of Westchester heard about the Odoms’ situation, however, they decided to give them a Thanksgiving gift they would never forget.
Thanks to the Robin Zacha family, the club sent the Odoms on an all-expenses-paid vacation to Disneyland and then club members rolled up their sleeves.
For four days, beginning Thursday, November 16th, Rotary members worked around the clock to spruce up the Odoms’ home, and thanks to major contributions from the H.B. Drollinger Co., The William H. Hannon Foundation, Gateway to L.A., the Westchester Rotary Foundation and many, many others, the Odoms returned Sunday, November 19th, to new paint, new carpeting, new landscaping, a remodeled kitchen, new furniture and plenty of additional surprises.
“All of us are so fortunate to have the things we have in our lives, and we wanted to give something back to a family like the Odoms who had been through so much,” said project chair Geoff Maleman. “This is what Rotary is all about —Ýservice above self and giving back to the community.”
As the Odoms drove down their street after their time at Disneyland, they were shocked to see dozens of Rotarians, neighbors and volunteers in yellow T-shirts, not to mention the big yellow YMCA bus parked smack in front of their home.
They had been told that the Rotary Club of Westchester was going to be doing some work on their home, but they had no idea how big the project had become. As Scott Odom got out of his car, he was overcome with emotion.
“I don’t even know what to say,” he said. “No words can express what I’m feeling right now. What have I done in my life to be so blessed?”
Scott was nearly moved to tears, even before seeing exactly what had been done to his home.
After Scott had a chance to address the crowd, in a scene reminiscent of ABC’s Extreme Makeover, the crowd assembled in front of the Odoms’ home shouted, “Move that bus!” and the Odoms were finally able to see what Rotary had been working so hard to create.
The Odoms were overcome with emotion when they saw their newly made-over home for the first time. The once-shabby exterior with peeling paint and dying plants was completely made new with fresh cream-colored paint and brand-new landscaping, and they were shocked to see just how beautiful their home looked.
As the family wandered through their home, there were exclamations of “Oh, my God!” from each one about what they saw around the next corner — Zachary about his new skateboard and surfboards; Georgia about her dance scholarship and dance wear provided by Vergari Dance Center and Cozette Vergari; Rachel about her new soccer goal and equipment in the front yard provided by Fold-A-Goal; and Scott and Christine about the family’s two new laptop computers.
“We are hopeful this project will inspire others like it in our community,” said Rotary president Val Velasco. “In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often fail to realize how fortunate we all are, so it was a privilege to help the Odoms make a ‘new’ home for the holidays.”
The Rotary Club raised more than $80,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. With the funds, the club was able to paint the entire house, inside and out, provide all new furniture with the help of Cedric Sutherland and CORT, remodel the entire kitchen with new cabinets and appliances, provide a rock garden in the back complete with benches and fire pit, and give the family a new sunroom and a $5,000 check to have it installed.
Not only that, but when the Odoms’ neighbors heard about the Rotary project, they decided to pitch in as well. Courtesy of a group of their neighbors, the Odoms will soon be getting a new garage door, new sprinklers and brand-new sod in their front yard — things Rotary and its legion of volunteers simply did not have time to provide.
As everyone gathered in the Odoms’ new backyard for a neighborhood barbecue celebration, the Odoms said they were overwhelmed by how beautiful their home looked, but they were even more overwhelmed by the outpouring of love that their Westchester neighborhood had shown them.
“Sometimes you get really depressed about all the things that are going on in the world, with the war and the government,” said Scott, “but then something like this happens, and you realize that the world is a beautiful place.”