It takes a village….

by on October 31, 2009 · 49 comments

in Health, Media, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego

DSC04497It never ceases to amaze me what people will do for others when called upon to help and today was no exception. This morning I got to meet Jim Dent, the Point Loma electrician who was compelled to help an elderly gentleman who had called him needing some electrical work done. Jim discovered that was just the tip of the iceberg… A call for help went out and the community answered. There is much more work to do and I have no doubt that call will be answered too, but I have to tell you about what happened today.

The group of people that came together this morning was as diverse as it was courageous. Jim had warned everyone in his emails and comments leading up to today’s cleanup that the conditions were bad and he was well prepared, providing everyone with respirator masks and sturdy gloves. As folks showed up he asked that everyone sign in so we could keep track of who had volunteered (we’ll do a more complete report later) and we passed out supplies. Shovels, mops, brooms, trash bags… A small roll-off dumpster was delivered, there was a trailer to cart off old appliances and electronic waste.

Prepped and armed, the small army descended on the house with a plan to remove the large appliances and get them to the recycling area before it closed and to remove the garbage, and so it began. Recently having surgery myself, I did not go into the house but did what I could to offer encouragement to the others. I saw the looks on the faces of these people as they marched in and out, dumping trash into the dumpster or just taking a breath of fresh air. I gave one young woman a cup of water and watched her do her best not to retch it up in the street. The conditions this poor man has been living in are truly unbelievable and it made me sad to think how alone he must be, but to see these ordinary folks answer the call to help, well, I still have a lump in my throat.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

doug porter October 31, 2009 at 3:07 pm

i hope the mayor doesn’t mind. i had to take a second shower today. thanks to everybody.


Jim Dent October 31, 2009 at 10:20 pm

I’ll have to forego wattering my lawn tomorrow for the shower I took today! We only get 3 days to water? I need it more! Yuk. I’m thinking of throwing my clothes away…


Jim Dent October 31, 2009 at 3:50 pm

I want to offer my heart felt thanks to everyone who showed up today and put a huge dent in what began to seem like an insurmountable task. Honest, I didn’t know the house was THAT big! Everyone masked and gloved up and did their jobs, even though the only fresh air was the ocean breeze outside. The air inside was not breathable. When I left at 3, only Susan and Pat James were left helping Robert get his dishes put away, and Susan doing a lot of kitchen scouring and cleaning. I did it once myself and though I did a pretty good job. After Susan did it again, it REALLY looked clean! Pat spend the rest of the day compacting all the trash in the dumpster down to the level top. We both took Sawzaws and cut up everything so it would compact lower. A nice guy by the name of Chico went to the recycle yard with me twice. On the second trip, we joked that we were leaving bread crumbs to find our way back. We kept dropping computer monitors in the middle of Ebers St. Twice. I guess a tail gate would have helped on the trailer, who by the way was loaned to us by Dave (PMD). His dad dropped it off at my place last night and they also donated a fine chair and ottoman. But that stays here until the cleaning is done. I hate to say it, but it has at least another 8 hour day to go to be what I consider clean. But it is so much better and all the junk is gone and the smell is now Pine Sol instead of rat pee. Thank you everyone. I know you were overwhelmed when you actually went inside and saw it for yourself. I still am. Pat saw a rat, and I got my pellet gun, but it did a houdini. It was in a dresser and we went through every single drawyer, no rat. But I know he saw it. I saw 4 the other day! Maybe now the Pine Sol smell will drive them out!


Frank Gormlie October 31, 2009 at 4:13 pm

What a great turn-out this morning! By the mid-afternoon, nearly 20 people had responded to Jim Dent’s appeal for help. (I’m hoping Patty will do a follow-up post.)


Jim Dent October 31, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Frank, is there a Face book link to post this to my profile as well as OBR? I know FB users can share photos and vids between each other. Log onto FB and look at my profile. I loaded the videos Dave took today. I’d also like to post this whole page.

Jim PS for now, I’ll post the link.


Erin October 31, 2009 at 4:49 pm

It was great to meet all of you today. It was an unusual experience, but everyone seemed to have a good spirit and just worked through it. I am willing to go in again if you need more help. :)

Thanks to Jim and Doug for the rides!



claudia j October 31, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Jim, Your all Great….I hope the potty (porta) was ok??/Let me know how the dumpster deal is going…. Keep me informed… I also have some kitchen stuff… xoxo claudia


Jim Dent October 31, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Claudia, thanks so much for getting us the porta pooper! Sorry, I gotta be me…
I called Anna and left a message for them to pick it up on Monday. I also called the dumpster company and told them to come get it. They charge by the ton, so I hope I have enough money to cover it from the donations. I only got about a 1/3 of the pledged funds. The neighbor next door, who’s name I do not know, gave us $100!
So, we have a brand new bed coming from Mattress World. Pimp Shack Dave, who loaned us the trailer, gave me a very nice rocker / swing type cushioned chair and ottoman that Robert will love, if I decide to let go of it…Susan & Pat James could probably tell you more about his immediate needs because they got very close with him, putting away his dishes, showing him where things were being put away, etc. I was too beat. I never knew how hard cleaning was, except for haulung refrigerators and oven and furnaces. That may have had something to do with it. But working a string mop with a squeeze bucket ringer is HARD! Reminded me of working in McDonalds in 1968! Ask Susan what he needs most. I have my hands full with the coming electrical work. I’ll send you a check for my OBMA membership. Thanks Claudia.



Genie October 31, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Thank you all! What a story.


Jim Dent October 31, 2009 at 10:18 pm

More to come.



jim grant November 1, 2009 at 8:47 am

I called the dumpster company and explained the work being done. I asked for the dumpster to be donated. Still waiting on a call from the owner Todd.


Jim Dent November 1, 2009 at 10:48 am

Jim, if they donate the dumpster expense, it’ll ease one major expense of this project. I gave them my Visa # for the final bill after it’s hauled back and weighed. I’ll be paying for it, and paying myself back with collected funds. Everything is documented. I will submit an Income and Expense report when it’s finished. Thanks.
However, I have supplies that I bought with my Visa that were used for the cleaning. I expected to be reimbursed for those as well because funds had not yet arrived to cover costs as the day approached. So, I need to get with someone to give back the mop bucket, wide shovels, all left over tools and equip. I wouldn’t feel right keeping any of it. Too bad we used the mop bucket and ringer box for trash. We could have taken it back to Home Depot for a refund!


OBSteven November 1, 2009 at 8:49 am

Reading this story reminds me of one of the major reasons why I live in Ocean Beach. This community is filled with amazing people. I hope that everything in my life goes to plan. I hope that I continue to be the funny, sexy, smart, sexy, humble man that you have all come to admire, emulate and tell your children that they could some day be like me if they work hard and stay in school. If something unexpected happens though, one of life’s little challenges, it’s nice to know that there are people like you who will come over and help chase the rats away. And probably bring over a bowl. Perhaps I should just go ahead and thank you in advance. And clean the bong.


jon November 1, 2009 at 10:30 am

When I think of Steven, sexy is the second thing that comes to mind. The first is bong.


Pat November 1, 2009 at 9:38 am

Many thanks to all the volunteers that came out to help.
It was and is still a huge task.
Thanks to Claudia for the porta potty ( I think I used it more than any body because I was drinking lots of water ). It was a bit overwhelming but we put a big dent in it.
I hadn’t been over there until yesterday . I thought Jim might have been exagerating
but he wasn’t everything was pretty much as he said.
Also thanks to those who donated money and furniture. Funds are still needed as we fell short of money spent. Jim Dent spent alot out of pocket on his own. Plus he’s going to donate his labor to upgrade much needed electrical. Jim you’re the man!
His neighbor Paul came over and gave $100 toward the cause.
Come to find out I know Paul . We had a nice dissussion regarding Dr Bobs living conditions. He had reached out to him to help but felt Dr Bobs pride may have gotten in the way. He was greatful for what we were doing. Thanks Paul. Also Kevin who does some work for Dr Bob and looks after him. Your’e a good man.
As for Dr Bob, there was concerns about aftercare . I found out that not only does he seem to be of sound mind, but he’s also a brilliant man. He does have some physical limitations , and could use some assistance. There’s still alot that needs to be done . Plumbing, Painting carpentry, Ect. but I feel yesterday was a hugh step in the right direction!


jon November 1, 2009 at 10:35 am

I would be really interested to learn what you discovered about Dr. Bob yesterday Pat. I didn’t have much time to sit and chat with him, but you did, and I could tell your local historian mind was having a field day. It must have been such a treat for you to pick his brain and find out more regarding his personal history living in the area. Thanks to you and your wife for sticking around longer and putting the finishing touches on the clean up as well.


claudia j November 1, 2009 at 9:49 am

Good Morning!!! WOW another job well done!!! OB is such a strong community when help is needed….Jim, I’ll get ahold of the “James ” and discuss what he needs…. Pat & Susan walk by my work everyday…. I feel a few other contacts and I’ll keep you posted….. Keep in touch……. claudia


Pat November 1, 2009 at 9:58 am

Jim Grant
Thanks for doing that would be great and help out a lot.


Frank Gormlie November 1, 2009 at 10:08 am

While it’s great that people donated things (mattress, Port-a-jon, trailer, money, etc) we also want to thank the folks that donated their LABOR POWER.

Special thanks to Erin Wilson, Amber Conley, Kevin Cooper, Christina Dullenback, Eddy Miller, Jennifer Simmonson, Chico Hum, Dave Bordenave, James (sorry, couldn’t read the writing), Shaman Braun, Mike Nichols, Susan and Pat James, and there were 5 OB Ragsters who showed: Doug Porter, Dave Rice, Jon Carr, Patty Jones – who just had neck surgery, and yours truly. And of course Jim Dent, no slacker himself. There may have been a couple of others who showed up later in the day that I missed.


Pat November 1, 2009 at 10:19 am

Thanks Frank
This would’t have come together so quickly if it wasn’t for the OB rag blog.


Jim Dent November 1, 2009 at 10:39 am

To Paul the neighbor: Thank you so much for the 11th hour donation of $100. I did not know your name, just that someone asked me where to put a new C note just donated. Frank must have copied the sign-in page and posted the names of the workers. Thanks Frank, that saved me more work. I’m no journalist or editor, but I do enjoy writing.

Now that my exhaustion has subsided, (woke up with very sore muscles), I’m ready for phase 2, if one materializes. I am handing the reigns of event coordinator over to Frank or Claudia or whoever is best at it. I think Pat James would be best choice for communicating with Robert. He spent so much time keeping him occupied with conversation while we were emptying out his house. As for me, I just want to be one of the worker bees, at least until the electrical day, when I’m KING! “It’s good to be the king!” (Mell Brooks, History of the World, Part 1). Great job everybody!


Pat November 1, 2009 at 11:24 am

I did find out some of his personal history, but his scientific mind kicked in and much of what was said over my head. We did bring home one of his manuscripts I plan on checking it out when I get a chance. He’s done a lot of writing.


Jim Dent November 1, 2009 at 11:36 am

He kept talking over my head too while trying to engage in conversation about electrical work. He’s got theories on the big bang, outer space black holes, and I’m standing there acting like I know what he’s talking about!


Jim Dent November 1, 2009 at 1:22 pm

In the mail box this morning: One very nice card and a letter from a lady by the name of
Anna Richards. She has generously donated another $100! She is also experienced in keeping the needy linked to the services they need. She has noted that Robert will require some in-home services in order for his house to remain in a clean environment.
IT AINT THERE YET FOLKS! There’s a lot more that needs to be finished.
Yesterday, I heard someone mention Meals on Wheels. If Robert doesn’t qualify, I don’t know who does. Maybe Ms. Richard can help put that together.
She did not indicate where she came upon our endeavour, but we are very grateful. I speak for all of us. I’d really like to see this project make it into the Beacon. A group photo would be awesome! I have friends back east who had emailed me on Saturday, confirming my address so they can send even more checks. Face Book people.
You know, it just occurred to me how scam artists get so rich. They prey on the kindness of others. Hmmmm…. 8-)


Jim Dent November 1, 2009 at 1:31 pm

By the way, I have to work next Saturday. Anyone willing to take over, have at it. Get some more people together and go in and finish cleaning. His bathroom is awful. His bedroom will need a thorough cleaning before the bed is delivered. I have to step down for now until my work slows down. Maybe Pat James. Maybe Claudia J. But it needs to be finished. Kevin Cooper knows Robert best. He’s done the yard work for over a year. Him and I were discussing the carpentry repairs needed in the kitchen, the wall we removed to get the furnace out, the ceining that has to come down in front of the kitchen sliding door, (It’s raining rat poop!) for the new wiring, etc. The day I schedule the electrical work would be a good day for that type of carpentry work. I need a plumber to disconnect and replace the water heater in the back. Tiles are falling off everywhere, but noting a little Liquid Nails won’t do in a pinch.
Any volunteers??? I have the bank account, the debit card and am the authorized trustee of the account. I want to put a bunch of Decon in the attic too. Also, we need a pet door. At least it doesn’t reek. as much….


annagrace November 1, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Hey Jim! I’m a Ragster! And I have bad handwriting! My other half is “Richard.” I’ll follow up on the Meals on Wheels….


Jim Dent November 1, 2009 at 2:55 pm

You are the lady who mailed the $100 I found in my mail box today! Thank you Anna and Richard. I asked everybody I knew for one dollar. Just one dollar. Had it not been for 3 or 4 people who donated $100 each, we’d (I’d) be broke! Not to lessen the smaller contributions, please don’t misunderstand. Every DIME was greatly appreciated.

When a person has only a buck to his name, and he gives that buck to someone who needs it more, he is in greater favor than someone that gave much more, only because they could afford to. These are tough times for everyone.


Andra Loo November 1, 2009 at 8:13 pm

What you all did was ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!!! I was helping out at the Community Clean Up and saw all the trash that Jim hauled away and dumped. I can’t afford to give $100 but would like to help with a donation; where should I send it or drop it off?


Jim Dent November 1, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Andra, were you by the entrance / exit asking if we wanted coffee or water? Thanks for your offer. It all helps. There’s till so much to do. You can deposit a check to any Wells Fargo bank, pay to the order of Rober Ehmann Donation fund. On the back, DEPOSIT ONLY. I’ll have to log off to find the account number. Be right back.


Jim Dent November 1, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Okay, the account number is 7631090250. I just went to the Wells Fargo site to get the account number and someone has donated $250.00 and I have no way to find out who. Thank you, thank you.


Jim Dent November 1, 2009 at 9:42 pm

(The 2 “thank you’s” was for both of you.


Pat November 2, 2009 at 8:52 am

Unfortunately I won’t be available this Saturday to help coordinate a further clean-up.
but I’ll help when I can. Only occasionally do I have Saturdays free.It seems like there’s always something going. Susan did go over yesterday (Sunday) to check on Dr Bob and take him some supplies. He seemed to be doing good. He did have a hard time finding some things. He did call later to say Kevin was over and they found what he was looking for.
Thanks again to all those who have helped!


Shawn Conrad November 2, 2009 at 9:36 am

I am very sad that I was not able to help.


Amber Conley November 2, 2009 at 10:30 am

I was glad I was there to help.

I was unable to kick that smell for a few days….
It was honestly the worst thing I have ever smelled.

But when I saw that man, sitting in his back room in his chair,
speaking with Pat, I was utterly humbled. I was curious about him,
and his life.. The heartbreak of picking his the photographs off the floor
of what was probably his family. Seeing groceries still in the back of his car,
piles upon piles of ruins.

And all those people showing up to help…



Chico November 3, 2009 at 11:48 am


I know what you mean….I was choked up when I saw those same photos and had to walk away before everyone there was witness to a full grown man crying. Lol. Thanks all for being there on Saturday. You are all good people with great big hearts!



claudia j November 2, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Hello Everyone….. Thank You, Thank You, to everyone that helped in someway… One of the most rewarding things to do is to Volunteer… I tell people when they want to volunteer whether you give 1 hour or 5, it all counts…If more people would volunteer the world would be a better place…. xo to all of you cj


Pat November 3, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I just spoke with Bob from Al Davis Mattress World.
They are donating box springs and a mattress to Dr Bob.
We are waiting to do some more cleaning before bringing it in.
If you are considering buying a new bed, consider Al Davis Mattress World!
Thanks Bob.


Chico November 3, 2009 at 2:04 pm

I’m not much of a handy man with regards to carpentry or plumbing, but I’ll be more than happy to volunteer my time again this Saturday, Nov. 7th, to complete any cleaning or other manual labor. If anyone is planning to go back to Dr. Bob’s house, please let me know either through the OB Rag or you can email me directly, I will be there and I might be able to get more people to help us. Thanks Jim and the everyone else for your inspiring us to care about one another and to be more generous to each other.


Jim Dent November 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm

I am sorry to say that I have to step down as organizer of the clean up efforts. I am still the trustor of the bank account and hold the debit card, which has yet to be activated. I will do that today. I need to have all the bills totaled up first, especially the dumpster. After that, I will pay myself back for what I’ve spent from the account. Whatever is left will go toward the electrical supplies which will cost at least $600. I also have to get a city electrical permit which is $109. Most of the funds for the electrical work will come from my pocket. The donations I’ve already received will just about equal Saturday’s expenses. I’m so glad we didn’t have to pay the recycle center at the land fill! What perfect timing. I have an actual paying job next Saturday for $3600 and can not afford to allow this customer to hire someone else. She wants it done this Saturday or else! My employee is not available right now to help me rewire Robert’s house. I loaned him to another contractor to keep him employeed full time and now I can’t have him back yet! Nobody else is qualified to help me do electrical or I would ask.

Once I have paid all expenses, I think Claudia or Pat would be best choice as trustor of the bank account if they are willing. Someone has to keep this clean-up going, and I just can’t. I had last weekend off for once, and that’s why i was available. I thought with enough people, we could do the entire project (cleaning) in one day. Unfortunately, almost everyone had to leave after a couple of hours. Soooo, who’s it gonna be?? Who wants to be El Jeffe?

By the way, and this hasn’t been pointed out yet, but Susan James stayed until at least 4 PM with Pat (I left near 3) and did all the dishes, pots and pans, flatware, scrubbed the sinks, cabinets, lined them with new paper, put all his flatware and dishes away and came back on Sunday to help him find everything! I’d say, “Susan, you da man” but I don’t want to get slapped. Again, thank you everyone.


Jim Dent November 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Chico, thanks for running back and picking up all the computer monitors that fell out of the trailer and were holding up traffic! That was actually pretty funny, but then, I just sat in the truck and calmly waited while you faced down the drivers being stalled by old monitors crashed in the middle of Ebers St!


Jim Dent November 3, 2009 at 2:35 pm

I keep looking at the title of this story, and I just can’t help myself because I started this, but I’d have named it. “It Takes a Villiage Idiot” for taking it on! I really bit off a lot to chew.


Susan Papert November 4, 2009 at 7:33 am

I’m available to help out Saturday for about 3 hours. I can paint or scrub and can probably provide my own supplies. I probably have some extra blankets, towels, dishes, and “stuff” to donate. I have no details about time or address, so please email me at


mom November 4, 2009 at 9:40 am

aha, now i know what you’r up to, have fun.


Jim Dent November 4, 2009 at 10:56 am

OKAY OB’ers, Book Facer’s, friends, neighbors, countrymen,
Here’s what we have so far as donations go. I have collected $725.00 to date. The expenses have totaled $652.70 to date. The dumpster was the largest expense of $352.
I still have to rewire this house before it literally burns down from an electrical fire with Robert in it. First I have to replace the meter / breaker box outside, then locate the wiring in every room not being used and take it out of service (disconnected from the power) except for the light and switch. He has so many rooms that were just junk storage, rewiring them all is pointless. My plan is to get new wiring to the kitchen, his office / bedroom, bathrooms, entry, and living room. All the new wiring is going to be done in metal conduit so future critters can not eat the wires again. It won’t be pretty, but it will be safe and functional and fairly inexpensive and less labor intensive. I NEED DOUBLE THE DONATIONS ALREADY RECEIVED, OR I WILL BE PAYING FOR ALL THE ELECTRICAL MATERIAL MYSELF. Please, help me out here. I hate asking for money. I hate it. But if I have to pay for the electrical material needed, I’ll be broke for a while. My retirement funds of 20 years is gone, vanished. Like I’m the only one…Please get the word out. I need at least $600 more. Thank you.


Molly November 4, 2009 at 11:03 am

Jim Dent – I think you need to slow down abit. Do not take on more than you can chew (no pun intended). Maybe Dr Bob has some money. He called you in the first place didn’t he? He must have something, as the articles say he is a retired scientist etc. That’s a lot of $$ to expect to be donated. Maybe the Kiwanis can help. Maybe all those rich Point Lomans who are currently celebrating the death of their homeless guy can contribute. I must say, collecting over $700 in donations already is great. Do not take on any more expenses. What about having the dumpster donated?


Jim Dent November 4, 2009 at 11:18 am

Molly, Someone from the OB Rag, Jim Grant I think, called the dumpster company asking that it be donated. He went on to write that he was waiting for a call back from the owner. In the meantime, yesterday, I noticed that my bank account has already been charged $352 for the dumpster. I called and requested it be donated as well, but business is business. I do not have the time to wait for more funds. This house is an electrical disaster waiting to burn. I’m worried as hell. I told Robert what needed to be done and he almost fainted at the cost. He said he didn’t have that kind of money, and I had only quited $3000 to get much of it done. To redo the whole house would be around $8000. He wrote me 2 checks, one for $108 for disconnecting a useless water heater and as we were leaving, asked if we could install a new (used) oven. I said sure, $175. But I didn’t know what lurked under the old oven. Yuk. The biggest rat nest I ever saw. Plus, it was too wide to fit between the cabinets and counter top, so we had to cut and make it fit, but I digress….he was able to pay for that. When we installed the oven and had the big space open between the cabinets, is when I saw that the wiring was all chewed through, exposed live copper wires. Then I began to look around and found exposed live copper everywhere. He called me initially because he has lost some of his power, which I know was eaten. I can’t fix that without opening ten cans of worms. There was also all the garbage and furniture in the way to even try and locate the problem and find one really electrocuted rat. This electrical has to be done ASAP. Who else is going to do it for free? Call around and ask. Zed, Cabrillo, Staniforth, I kinda doubt it. I’ve been wrong before. Once…8-)


Christina November 5, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Hey! I was there last Saturday with my partner, Dave (PSD). I was wondering when the next meeting at the house was going to be. I am trying to get some tradesmen volunteers (plumber, flooring, carpenter, etc…) I’m going to have my boss come out with me so that he can see what we’re doing and try to help me find some people to volunteer time and materials. We’re in the Real Estate business and our company does a lot of fix ups on houses that are in really bad condition.


Frank Gormlie November 5, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Christina – It was great meeting you and PSD on Saturday finally. Please check the latest post about “calling churches …” and the comments for more details, but it looks like Sunday morning. Try to coordinate with Pat & Susan James, and Jim Dent.


Jim Dent November 5, 2009 at 6:27 pm


Looks like Sunday morning. I will be there to bring your chair and ottoman that Dave left with me to hold. I’m going to make electrical notes and gear up for what I need to do next. I have to get into the attic. Ugh.


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