FOLSOM, Calif. (KTXL) – For more than 40 years, 81-year-old Folsom resident Gene has lived at her home on Market Street.
For 30 of those years, Gene was a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. Prior to the pandemic, she used her knitting skills to make hats for newborns.
Then several years ago, she suffered a stroke that led to extreme fatigue and depression. It became difficult for her to maintain her home, resulting in an intense hoarding situation.
“I just want a quiet life with me and my dog,” Gene said.
A local plumber, who was worried about the conditions Gene was living in, called 911 Hazmat Cleanup.
“She called for service regarding her bathroom, a backup, and he came in and was unable to help her due to the severity of the house and he really wanted to help,” explained Kimberly Chatman, CEO of 911 Hazmat Cleanup. “It’s a lot of trash, old food, we have flying insects in there. The whole kitchen, there’s mold. There is a leak on her roof which caved in. There’s insulation inside her kitchen.”
Chatman said the gaping hole in the roof had been there for at least three weeks.
She told FOX40 a cleanup job for Gene’s home would typically run into the thousands of dollars. Yet, with a limited means of income and no close family to speak of, Chatman offered her company’s services free of charge.
“She told us in the beginning, ‘I don’t have any money. I don’t know what to do. If you can’t help me, it’s OK.’ But we tried our resources,” Chatman said.
Chatman reached out to several companies like Goodwill, Aramsco, Jon-Don cleaning supplies and others who have all agreed to help support a fundraising effort for Gene called Operation Bring Gene Back Home.
Sacramento County Adult Protective Services temporarily removed Gene from her home while businesses and organizations are donating their time, money and services to help her out. For now, she will stay with her neighbors of more than 20 years.
Gene’s neighbors Kathy and Delbert Duncan told FOX40 the help is the greatest gift Gene could ever receive.
“I’m beyond thrilled. I’m almost tearing up here because she needs this,” the Duncans told FOX40. “She needs the emotional and physical help that she’s finally getting now.”
Chatman expects their end of the cleanup to take about a week. Overall, she expects it will be about a month before Gene can settle back into a clean home.
Both Chatman and the Duncans said the moral of Gene’s story is to check on and love your neighbor.
“People, please, need to realize you don’t just wake up one morning and this happens. It progresses,” the Duncans said.
Chatman said COVID-19 has also brought them a surge of cleanups. Unfortunately, suicides and deceased relatives are the most common situations they find.
“We’ve been very busy. It’s unfortunate, so just please check on your loved ones,” she said.
“When you need help, ask for it,” Gene said.
If you’d like to help with Operation Help Bring Gene Home, click or tap here.