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As Petaluma's Code Enforcement Officer, Joe Garcia has the authority to write tickets when he sees a problem.
"Junk properties, trash and debris in the yard," Garcia said are examples of violations he commonly cites.
But, it turns out, what Garcia also possesses is the compassion in certain cases not to write a ticket. It is the reason this story has such a happy ending.
"It's not in the job description, no," Garcia said, "but it's in the description of a human being."
It all started with a complaint two years ago about a yard overgrown with weeds. The home belonged to Albert Pericou, an 89-year-old World War II veteran. Garcia said Pericou was eager to correct the problem, but he found himself returning to the property because Pericou seemed unable to get a handle on the situation.
What's more, the inside of Pericou's home was in just as much disrepair as the outside.
Instead of writing a ticket, though, Garcia decided to lend a hand. He had become fond of Pericou and wanted to help the Navy veteran.
"I'm supposed to be the bad guy. That's what everybody thinks," Garcia said. "But I don't go through life trying to make people upset."
Garcia then reached out to Jane Hamilton, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together, a non-profit helping low-income people with home repairs.
"We work with Joe all the time and he has the biggest heart in the world," Hamilton said.
When Garcia told Hamilton about Pericou's story, she was in. There was one problem, though.
"As soon as we realized how serious the problem was (we wondered) how are we going to pay for this?" Hamilton said.
It took just one call to Home Depot, though, to get the ball rolling. The home improvement giant donated $10,000 and dispatched a team of volunteers to work on Pericou's home. They weren't alone. Dozens of other contractors, firefighters, police officers, and city employees responded to Rebuilding Together's plea for help.
In a three-day period, they landscaped Pericou's backyard, repaired and improved both his bathrooms and fixed steps leading into his home.
As much as Pericou appreciated all the help on the house, though, he appeared to love the company even more. He once wanted to curse whichever neighbor complained about his home in the first place, but he now has a different message for that person.
"I'd go and shake his hand and congratulate him for having too many weeds because I wouldn't have had all this done."