Home makeovers help domestic violence survivors let go of silent scars

Bottom L to R: Sheri Scott, Nicole Lopez, Leanne Nuckolls, Denese Lopez, Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, Breanna Arvayo, Lynette Herrera, Sandra Cruz Standing on stairs (L to R): Melinda Cuellar, Laura Murrin, Keila Stewart, Corrine Molina, Janice Lopez, Denise De Anda.
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The neighborhood was quiet, the homes arranged neatly next to each other without much fuss.  It seemed like every other early, sleepy Saturday morning, until you reached the end of the driveway.  There sat a truck laden with all the makings for a new bed.  Cars had pulled up closely to the front door and ladies hurriedly unpacked them and moved outside to the street parking.

An old sofa sat near the dumpster, now tossed aside and being replaced.  Women came down the stairs, arms full of crinkled rolls of Christmas paper, old wall hangings, old stuff.  “All I can say is,” said the bearer of old things as she broke out into song, “Let it go, let it go!!!…”  Everyone laughed, knowing Elsa and her sister would be proud.  It was makeover day for Leanne Nuckolls of Rialto, and the hardworking ladies of W.E.L.L. (Women Empowered through Labors of Love) were doing what they do to transform her home into a dream living space.  

Moving out old furnishings, stripping walls bare, the first task at hand was paint and clean up.  Removing what was excess and leaving only what were the bare necessities, the group of women worked from sunup to sundown to accomplish the job of paid professionals, although none of these women work in construction, interior design, or general carpentry.  Some handled drills, others had hammers and nails and others yielded paint brushes with the finesse of journeymen.  

Sheri Scott of Encino had driven all the way to Rialto to help.  She was the first woman to have her home transformed by W.E.L.L. 

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“I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence,” said Scott, “I was suffering from bad episodes of depression and PTSD.”  When her home was made over, Scott said, “When I looked around and my home felt like a real home, the old stuff was gone, it was cleaned up, redecorated, it was just a relief.  I was able to let go of some of the old feelings, it was just amazing.”  She had helped W.E.L.L. founder Denese Lopez with every renovation since then.  “I’m a Jill-of-all-trades,” Scott grinned as she shared, “Whatever needs to be done, we get together and get it done.”  

Ensuring others that the makeover effort isn’t like what we see on television, Scott shared that anyone who would like to come and help these projects should know that they all have different lengths of completion.  “Sometimes we work an entire day, usually 10 a.m. to 10 p.m,” she said, “some jobs run Friday to Sunday, and anyone can help somehow.  Maybe you can’t pick up heavy stuff, but you can vacuum, mop a floor, make the crew lunch, or make up a bed.  If anyone wants to help, there is always something to do, and there’s nothing that’s a small job.  It’s all important.”

For Nicole Lopez of West Covina, working on these projects has shown her the huge difference made in the women’s lives.  “There is a change in attitude, such a gratitude in their faces when the job is done.”  Lopez says she loves beginning the transformation of the home, and then realizing the end results when the whole project comes together and is finished.  “W.E.L.L. is open to any help anyone can give,” she said, “donations of money, donations of home items, come to paint, volunteer even for one hour, all of it makes a difference.”

Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes of District 47 came to the home and grabbed a hammer.  “Where do I start?  I want to help!”  Talking with the crew of ladies, she presented a special award to Lopez, thanking her for coming to Rialto to make a difference.  In speaking directly to Leanne Nuckolls, Assembly woman Reyes brought tears to everyone’s eyes as she spoke with understanding and compassion, but mostly with happiness at the transformation taking place in her home.  After that, Reyes took a tour around the home, marveling at the job being done.  “I knew the minute I heard about this project, I wanted to be involved,” she told Lopez, “I just can’t say enough about how wonderful this all is!”  

When it was all said and done, the transformed home brought smiles and tears to everyone’s eyes.  Nuckolls said, “My kids are so happy, they don’t want to leave their room at all.  I’m overwhelmed with joy.  They de-cluttered my home, getting rid of so many things from my past.  Letting go of it all was just amazing.  They did an amazing job.” 

Nuckolls will be working on future makeovers with W.E.L.L. and encourages anyone who would like to do the same to join forces with this group to make a real difference in people’s lives.  You can contact W.E.L.L. at laborsofloveorg@gmail.com or (562)-204-6183.

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