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Volume 68, Issue 132, Monday, April 14, 2003


Angels at work

By Matt Dulin
The Daily Cougar

First in a series

Julia Perez, 59, still canit believe it. The 32-year resident of a Stafford, Texas 5th Street home is watching it getting rebuilt, rewired and reworked, adding years to its long life.

What she canit believe is how four UH social work students just looking to satisfy a Social Action Project assignment ended up giving her family a chance to live better.

Calling themselves "Angels in Action," the four students ­ Mital Brahmbhatt, Kim Luong, Brooke Newhouse and Heather Smith ­ are hardly acting alone, however. In addition to employing the services of dozens of Fort Bend High School volunteers, theyive also got the communityis top philanthropist and one-time Disney Teacher of the Year, Kaye Slack, backing them up.

Through Slack, who taught Brahmbhatt in high school, the group also has the able hands of Cliff Wolf and his family to work out the logistics behind rebuilding a home from top to bottom.

The work goals posted outside the front door Saturday listed nine objectives, among which were replacing the doors, windowpanes and the siding. At some point during the day, an electrician would be on hand to repair the homeis electrical lines. Workers Saturday were also building a new walkway to the front door and building up the lawn to stave off the floodwaters that often haunt the little home situated near a creek.

When the Angels in Action first encountered the house, only three outlets worked. Moreover, the house didnit get hot water, and the kitchen sink drained into a 50-gallon jug.

"A hot water heater will be donated and installed soon," Brahmbhatt says.

Also in line for the Perez home: new living room furniture, a completely renovated bathroom, new kitchen counters, working sinks with hot water and new floors throughout the house.

Wolf grimaces when asked what all this might cost.

"Maybe $20,000," he says.

The Perez family wonit have to worry about a dime of that, the Angels say. 

"Everythingis being donated or paid for by donated money," Brahmbhatt said. The group estimates theyive already received $3,500 in donated money, materials and food.

"The response has been amazing," Brahmbhatt said. 

The Angels mention "community mobilization," neighbors and friends along the street showing up, offering what help they can or just asking questions.

"This is a symbol for the community," Newhouse says, explaining how these improvements might get the community thinking about how they can go about fixing other problems before tackling the regionis biggest issues ­ drugs and violence.

The 5th Street area is home to more than 2,000 residents, most of whom are undocumented immigrants, so they arenit counted in census allocations. The area lies between Missouri City and Stafford, and neither city has claimed legal jurisdiction over the land, although Stafford boasts its huge community civic center within 500 yards of the Perez home.

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