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Volunteers help Del Paso Heights couple rebuild after a scam

By Dan Vierria - dvierria@sacbee.com

Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, July 27, 2008
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B4

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Oliver and Patsy Davis consult with electrician Todd Ford, center, about the wiring of their Del Paso Heights home as volunteers – professional and amateur – arrive Saturday to finish work that an allegedly unlicensed contractor – since arrested – left undone. Carl Costas / ccostas@sacbee.com

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Good people still roam the earth.

Sweating like drippy faucets, about two dozen of those good folk spent Saturday as volunteers, pounding nails and helping an elderly Del Paso Heights couple rebuild their home.

"The Lord took our tragedy and made it into a miracle," said Patsy Davis, 69.

She and husband Oliver, 88, said they paid a man $253,000 to remodel the single-story home. But, authorities say, Keith McGowan left the home gutted, unfinished and with only an estimated $72,000 worth of work completed.

McGowan was arrested in April by Sacramento police and charged with felony financial elder abuse and fraudulent use of a contractor's license and misdemeanor charges, including working without a state contractor's license.

In what looked like an urban barn-raising, skilled and unskilled workers swarmed the home Saturday morning, stringing electrical wire and correcting construction mistakes.

Flooring, uneven and sagging underfoot, needed to be reinforced and volunteers peeled off what remained of the roof, dropping it into a Dumpster.

"People really should check that their contractor is licensed," said journeyman electrician Michael Moskus of Grass Valley, as he examined incorrectly installed switch and outlet boxes.

Phil Vanderloo, who read about the couple's plight in The Bee this spring, organized the volunteer effort. Vanderloo is a licensed contractor who owns Hiline Builders in Fair Oaks.

"I remember reading the story and I couldn't get it out of my mind," he said. "I started making calls, 300 to 400 calls to contractors and associations. I wanted to find out what could be done before I contacted the Davises."

Eventually, an alliance of Hiline Builders, Bayside Church of Granite Bay, State of BEing and Rebuilding Together Sacramento formed to raise money and finish the Davis home.

Vanderloo said the city of Sacramento and SMUD have "bent over backwards" to help expedite the permit process and get power to the home.

Patsy Davis said she lived in the home from 1971 to 1995, before moving across the street to a two-story house. Her daughter Pamela then moved in until her death in 2001.

The home was then rented to tenants who Davis said did much damage. The city condemned the house two years ago and soon after McGowan assured the Davises that he could make the repairs and bring it up to code. No longer able to climb stairs, the couple needed to move back across the street to the original residence.

The Davises took out a loan on the two-story house to help pay McGowan, who worked on the house for more than a year.

"About five months in, I started getting suspicious because work wasn't getting done," said the Davis' granddaughter Thanha Hill of Sacramento. "He didn't like it when I came around."

With their savings gone, in debt and facing the loss of both homes, Vanderloo materialized as a guardian angel.

"One hundred percent of anything donated goes right into this house and nowhere else," said Vanderloo. "These are tough times right now and people are struggling, but somehow people and businesses have been coming through."

Vanderloo said the project still needs a plumber, some drywallers and roofers, and somebody who can stucco the exterior. And volunteers could really use cash to pay for the professional help they can't get for free.

He's directing anybody who can help or donate products to go to www.davisproject.org.

"After today, me and a handful of guys will be coming out here to do what we can," he said.

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Oliver Davis watches volunteers at work. Davis said he and his wife, Patsy, paid a contractor $253,000 to repair the damaged home but only got $72,000 in work. Carl Costas / ccostas@sacbee.com

Spencer Imsdahl joins the volunteer effort to rebuild the Davises' Del Paso Heights home. The contractor who left the couple in the lurch has been charged with felony financial elder abuse. Carl Costas / ccostas@sacbee.com



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