Each year in October, a handful of Chula Vista homeowners receive an early Christmas gift.
Those selected through the Christmas in October program receive free work to their homes from hundreds of local volunteer individuals, businesses and organizations.
The goal is to preserve and revitalize the homes of low-income homeowners, particularly those who are disabled and/or elderly who are struggling to maintain them.
Of half a dozen residents selected this year, Joseph Rowan was a recipient Oct. 13.
A motorcycle enthusiast, Rowan raced and built his own bikes and naturally progressed to work on others.
Now retired, Rowan worked for 60 years repairing motorcycles for the Chula Vista and National City police departments.
After Rowan’s wife passed away nearly three years ago, it became difficult to keep up their home, since he lost a leg 40 years ago in an accident.
All repairs are done for free and sponsored by a business or organization.
Lowe’s employee Yasmine Munoz served as the house captain for the Rowan home. She along with dozens of Lowe’s employees as well as Navy personnel from North Island Coronado worked to repair his home.
The Lowe’s team patched and plastered walls and ceilings, removed debris in the yard, hung drywall and added new paint. They also repaired and refinished some furniture and gifted him with a new barbecue.
Rowan has lived in his home for 55 years and plans to keep it in the family. He currently lives with his son Jeff, who is an Air Force veteran.
“It really has been a godsend to get some of this stuff out of the way,” Rowan said. “I can’t get around anymore like I used to.”
David Hosfield, who has volunteered four years with Lowe’s and Christmas in October, said it’s a way for him to give back to his community.
“For me, it gives me a sense of being able to use what we’re taught in life — a gift from God to give back,” Hosfield said.
For homeowners Brian and Lilliana Chrislock, the help couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It’s a mixture of excitement and happy tears,” Lilliana said. “Its’ very emotional, because how I see it — it’s not our home, it’s our children’s home.”
The Chrislocks bought their home three years ago, the same year their oldest of three children fell ill.
Brian Jr., 12, was diagnosed with adrenal leukodystrophy, a disease that attacks the brain and central nervous system, as well as Addison’s disease, which impairs the body’s ability to produce vital steroids.
Lilliana, 31, said the symptoms are similar to cancer.
For the last three years, the Chrislocks have done everything to get their son the treatment he needs, resulting in Lilliana quitting her job, while housework fell to the wayside.
The Chrislocks found out about the program when a flyer mysteriously ended up on their doorstep.
Lilliana figured she’d give it a shot and applied for the program.
Bill Stacy and Debi Schwarz have been co-house captains for the last six years, leading the UTC Aerospace Systems team, formerly known as Goodrich.
“I talked to Lili and within the first few minutes I felt an immediate connection,” Stacy said.
Stephen Erickson, a design engineer with UTC, wanted to focus on making the time the kids spent together more enjoyable.
“I wanted to work on keeping the adventure alive for the kids,” he said. “After hearing the story, to me, the most important thing is the kids and making memories.”
The majority of the work was done in their backyard, which was overtaken by a giant pepper tree. It has since been transformed into an awesome playground for the kids, including tree forts — the boys now have a two-level deck pirate ship as a tree house.
“It’s amazing to see everybody put their effort into making our home more beautiful,” Lilliana said.
Their other children are Josh, 9 and Bryanna, 8.