Alfred B. Brooks has some really special neighbors.
When the 81-year-old homeowner received a notice from Lexington's Division of Code Enforcement listing repairs that needed to be made to his home, Brooks said he didn't know what he was going to do.
"I would have just piddled around, doing what I could," the former construction worker said.
One of his neighbors told him to call the Rev. Jim Thurman of Shiloh Baptist Church, to see whether Thurman could advise him.
"I was sitting in my office and got a call from one of the neighbors of a congregation member," Thurman said. "He said a number of houses on the street had been cited by code enforcement and that many of the homeowners didn't have the means to fix them up."
Thurman walked through the area with the Rev. Keith Barbour, an associate pastor at Shiloh who owns a construction company, and Billie Mallory, president of the William Wells Brown Neighborhood Association.
Thurman, who is the admissions officer of the College for Technical Education, a division of Employment Solutions Inc., talked with Rick Christman, Solutions' chief executive. Thurman wanted to use students in the building trades technician program to help make the necessary repairs.
"I showed him the pictures, and he said not only could we use our senior students, but I will give you $5,000 for materials," Thurman said of Christman.
For the past three weeks, the students and members of the neighborhood association have repaired rotting window frames and porches and fixed awnings, and they have begun painting five houses on the street.
"We got the major stuff done that we could do," he said. "We're going back this week to paint and to cover windows with plastic for the winter."
There are 140 students in various programs at CTE, including administrative assistant, medical assistant, food and hospitality, and cosmetology in addition to building trades. Students in building trades learn enough carpentry, plumbing, electrical and safety training to maintain buildings in those subject areas. At the end of the nine-month course, they receive certification.
They also get help finding a job. Thurman said about 70 percent of the graduates are employed. If, after a while, they lose their job, Thurman said, those students are eligible for placement services for the rest of their lives.
All the training is hands-on in each program. The students who helped the elderly homeowners were in their final weeks of training, in which they must hone their skills before graduating, he said.
Interestingly enough, most of the students in the building-trades program are women.
"It's been that way for the past three years," he said. "There are more women signing up than men."
None of that mattered to Brooks. All he saw was a lot of people willing to help in his time of need.
Plus, "they did a very good job, especially on the front porch," he said. Because he had worked in construction, he could tell.
There are no plans for this service to continue, but the moral of the story is that much can be accomplished if we take it upon ourselves to lend a helping hand.
Their presence in the neighborhood encouraged other homeowners to spruce up their properties, as well, Thurman said.
"That was the whole idea. We tried to have a visible presence there.
"We wanted them to know we are supporting this neighborhood," he said.