The group descended on the backyard in south Littleton during the early-morning calm of the weekend.
Armed with rakes and saws, plastic bags and hammers, the two dozen volunteers attacked a large pile of junk in back of the house.
The husband and wife who own the home, and who wished to remain nameless, have lived in the house for 43 years. The husband, a former engineer, had collected various items over the years that he either intended to fix or turn into something new.
“He wanted to build a new tandem bicycle,” said the wife, referring to the 18 bicycles her husband had collected in their backyard.
Yet the husband now suffers from dementia, and the growing pile of items, including a dilapidated playhouse, had drawn the attention of neighbors and the city, said City Council candidate John Watson.
Watson, who’s running for an at-large seat, said he heard about the situation from neighbors of the home and wanted to help.
“They’ve been here for 43 years. The last thing we want is for them to have to leave this house because they can’t take care of this themselves,” Watson said. “We just didn’t want this to be a problem for them or the city or the neighbors.”
So Watson and the Sunshine Boys, a group of politically active Littleton citizens, organized the cleanup. The city sent a truck to haul everything away.
“I’m 78 years old; my husband is 86. There’s no way we could have done this on our own. We would have had to hire people, and we couldn’t afford to do that,” the wife said. “Before this, I was wondering how much longer we could have lived here.”
The process was slow at first.
Volunteers removed various items: a red wagon, pieces of a metal bed frame, gas cans and hubcaps that were partially hidden by knee-high weeds.
After the items were gone, several volunteers hacked away at the weeds, only to reveal more junk hidden on the ground. And the process would start all over again.
“Hey, it’s better than sitting in front of your computer all day,” said volunteer Jeannie Erickson.
After five hours, one large pile of trash, and one torn-down treehouse, the backyard was empty except for the trees and grass.
“It’s incredible. It’s just beyond belief that people would be so nice and help,” the wife said, as she fought back tears. “It’s probably why we’ve lived here going on 44 years. It’s just that kind of town.”
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.