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East Bluff residents’ compassion leads to free home repairs for elderly neighbor

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The power of community - never underestimate it.

Saturday an elderly East Bluff woman had work done on her house all because some caring neighbors took an interest in looking after her.

Ms. Barbara Johnson is a widow whose late husband was a veteran.

She's been living in Peoria's East Bluff for more than thirty years and recently, her neighbors Lawrence Maushard and Kristen Meierkord noticed her home needed some much needed repairs, and not just for cosmetic reasons.

Part of Ms. Johnson's roof was caving and areas of her front steps were eroding.

Maushard and Meierkord had already been looking after her for awhile. In fact, Meierkord had also recently put out a call to action in the East Bluff's Facebook page asking if residents would be willing to take Ms. Johnson grocery shopping, assist her with meal prepping or drop off prepared food.

The post garnered hundreds of comments, likes and most importantly, other neighbors who jumped at the opportunity to volunteer their time and talents for Ms. Johnson.

Still however, her home needed immediate attention and Maushard who joked that he's not very handy, made a quick phone call to a local organization who immediately accepted the job.

"Like a lot of the people here, we're concerned about our neighbors. We're seeing Ms. Barbara here out on her porch in the better weather and we saw that she needed some things. We knew there's a lot of great groups like the Fuller Center. They came out with no issues, no problem and no cost." Maushard shared.

Illinois Valley Fuller Center is comprised of a team of volunteers who do basic home repairs for area veterans and their families. "Our beloved Veterans risked their lives for our freedom, and too often they don't have the resources for comfortable lives at home." - reads an except from their website's mission.

Debbie Gaught, Co-Founder of the IVFC ( Illinois Valley Fuller Center) said "many veterans won't ask for help. Some are too proud." She added they should never have to go without, nor their spouses, after the work they've done for the country.

As such, Gaught encouraged anyone who knows a veterans in need of some home repairs to contact them immediately, especially since winter seems to finally be setting in and the most common issue she sees, have to do with heating and cooling.

Gaught was there Saturday morning alongside another volunteer named Woody, who preferred not to go on camera, but had no issue rolling up his sleeves and diving into the day's work with his colleague.

Woody and volunteers had been going to Ms. Babrara's house every weekend for a few months, fulfilling the IVFC's mission at no cost and not seeking recognition.

In a phone conversation with 25 News, Friday, Woody simply said warmly "We'll be there bright and early and yal are welcome to come.' adding that he enjoys helping veterans.

Like Woody, Maushard also likes helping people and made sure to reiterate that the same is true for much of the East Bluff.

He said he hopes people recognize them as more than an area impacted by violence and instead sees into their close knit community of neighbors who care about their own and do things everyday to demonstrate that.

Ms. Johnson did not offer a direct comment. She suffers from dementia and also preferred not to be interviewed, but our crews covering this say she was smiling throughout the morning and very happy to have the extra help.

Lauren Melendez

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