Christmas came early for Colorado octogenarian Vivian Gallegos, who was treated to a home makeover beyond her wildest dreams thanks to the efforts of her granddaughter and a local radio DJ.
It started, as many good deeds do, with a Facebook post, this one by KBPI morning host Willie B. "What's something you've always wanted to do but couldn't because $$$ kept you from doing it???" he asked his fans in November. Out of more than 800-plus answers, it was Stacy Salazar's that captivated him the most: "Replace the carpets for my 90-year-old Grammy and fixing all the little things around her house. Just a small thank you for not giving us kids up to foster care when our parents died," she wrote.
"It was a very unselfish answer to a question designed to be selfish," Willie B., whose real name is Steve Meade, tells Yahoo Shine. He adds that, when he messaged her for more details, he found out the rest of the poignant story: that Salazar's single mom was murdered when she was just 7 and her siblings were 5 and 8, and that Gallegos (who turns 90 in March) took in all three kids and raised them, despite being 71 years old and caring for a husband in the late stages of Parkinson's disease. Because of the added financial burden, Gallegos's house, in Aurora, had fallen into deep disrepair, with problems that included 40-year-old shag carpeting worn flat as suede, crumbling walls, a taxed electrical system, an dilapidated couch held up by 26 phone books, barely-there insulation, a broken furnace and a severe mouse infestation.
Meade flew into action, rallying local construction workers, electricians and retailers to donate parts and labor. In just a six-day span, a team of bighearted contractors tackled $80,000 worth of renovations in Gallegos's home, taking care of all the most pressing problems and throwing in a new bathroom, new bedrooms, painted walls, appliances, furniture, new kitchen cabinets, counter tops, and a new air conditioning, all for good measure.
The work was done as a surprise for Gallegos, who was whisked away to stay at another granddaughter's house under the pretense of Salazar winning one room's worth of free carpeting that needed installing. Though Gallegos had been given a free condo getaway in the mountains and a spa treatment as part of the plan, Meade says she would not accept the gift-and that she was hesitant to sleep elsewhere at all, as she had never before gone away overnight.
"To keep her away, we had to tell her we found a little asbestos and needed to take care of it," Meade says, adding that the anxious grandmother had threatened to drive herself home by the fifth night, despite not knowing how to drive. When Salazar finally brought her home on December 18, Meade recalls, the crowd of contractors greeted her on the front lawn, excited about the big reveal.
"She was like a really precious piece of china in what looked like a herd of buffalo," he says, describing the scene. "She was speechless and so relieved, like a huge weight had been lifted. She was really overwhelmed, and we were overjoyed."
Gallegos could not be reached by Shine for comment, but told Fox 31 Denver at the time, "It hasn't sunk in, not yet."
Salazar, meanwhile, told CBS 4 Denver, "My grandma [means] everything. I wouldn't be who I am without her, definitely."
Meade, who has been KBPI's popular Willie B for 20 years, is no stranger to giving, despite living paycheck to paycheck. A vintage-car enthusiast and tinkerer, he says he buys about five or six used vehicles a year, fixes them up, and donates them to local families in need. "It's just stuff I do on my own dime," he says. And in addition to answering Salazar's Facebook wish, he chose two others to grant, as well: one, to help a young girl learn to drive, and another, to spring for airfare for a young man who wanted to introduce his new baby to its faraway grandparents.
The DJ attributes his generosity to having barely survived an accident in 2005, when a car fell off of a trailer on top of him, and he had to be resuscitated. "I guess I just look at life a little bit differently now," he says. "I want to make people's lives a little better."