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Volunteers begin work rebuilding Yuman's home
Click here to see photos of Tony's home from the fire to rebuilding
You could hear it before you could see it: the tapping of hammers and the squeal of saws as men pounded together the lumber that will become a home.
And when you saw it, you could feel it: the affection Yuma has for Tony Gianopoulos, the elder who will move into the home after a house fire destroyed nearly everything he owned.
Three months after the blaze gutted Gianopoulos' house that stood on La Casita Drive, volunteers are building him another in the same spot. The framers currently on site, from Yuma's Habitat for Humanity, are part of a parade of people who are giving, at little or no cost, the time, materials and skilled labor to rebuild the Gianopoulos home.
When Dick Tennent and his Habitat crew pulled up to the site Wednesday morning, they had stacks of wood and trusses next to a concrete slab. By lunchtime, they had a clearly recognizable skeleton of a house.
“We probably had all the walls up by 9 o'clock,” Tennent said. “But then you have to straighten them.”
About 20 workers were on site, plenty to put up the frame of the three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,250-square foot home, but not so many that anybody stood around idle. Most of the workers were retirees. Many of them were winter visitors. A few were retired from the building trade.
Tennent said one of the morning helpers who kept things on track was Leo Pilkington of Yuma's Pilkington Commercial construction.
“When you have three of four men like that know what they're doing, that's all you need,” Tennent said.
Tennent planned to have the frame ready by Friday. After they get the trusses on, a city inspector will evaluate their work. The new house will have some updates but has been designed to look much like the modest house that Tony had lived in for decades.
Roy Cooper, the vice president of Habitat for Humanity of Yuma's board of directors, knew Tony already as many do, from Sam's Club. Tony has worked there for years as a greeter, and is known for drawing smiley faces on customers' receipts.
“I think the community just opened up to him,” Cooper said.
Tony, 80, lost his house and almost everything in it in the wee hours of Dec. 9. Aging wiring ignited the gas furnace and the house was quickly engulfed in flames. Tony fled unharmed. All he kept were the clothes he was wearing, some photographs and one of his two dogs (they bolted and only one eventually turned up a few days later).
Tony had lived independently, supporting himself with his Social Security benefits and his wages from his part-time Sam's Club job. But he did not have homeowner's insurance. Yumans immediately offered him clothing, furnishings, money and more.
Diomedes Gianopoulos, Tony's grown son, came to Yuma from Colorado right after the fire to stay with his father and help him get back on his feet.
He knows the names of all the local tradesmen by memory: D&G Concrete (who salvaged part of the original foundation and replaced what was badly damaged); Calculated Designs (owner Chris Morris lost his own home to fire a few years ago and after that vowed to help other fire survivors rebuild their homes); Real Electric; M&M General Contracting for the roofing. Diomedes is himself a heating, ventilation and air conditioning professional and will take care of that for his dad's house.
He said the plumbing foreman came on his own time with a crew and doesn't want to be recognized by name, “but you know, he's such a nice guy.”
“Nicest guy on the planet.”
Foxworth Galbraith donated $4,500 worth of lumber. Ferguson Enterprises donated plumbing fixtures. The city of Yuma waived the cost of permits that normally would cost about $2,700.
“They all mentioned the same thing, they love my father,” Diomedes said
With so many experienced professionals chipping in, Diomedes expects efficient momentum to move Tony in about three weeks from now. He knows his Pop is anxious to get back into his home.