June 30--Diabetes claimed Elaine Pickett's right leg and severely limited her ability to do normal household tasks in and around her Grove Avenue home.
The grass shot skyward, the weeds overran her backyard and grime encroached on every exterior surface. But she was helpless to stop it. She called the city desperate for help.
Orlando Police officers equipped with paint brushes, mops, backhoes and shears answered Pickett's plea, along with local youth who braved the scorching heat Saturday to render some tender-loving care.
The act of kindness is part of Operation Positive Direction, a mentoring and community service program that pairs officers with local middle- and high-school kids in need of positive role models.
Officer Renita Osselyn said the program began under former Chief Val Deming in 2008 and has continued to grow.
Pickett was overjoyed when Osselyn, who coordinates the program, arrived with her two dozen volunteers to give the house a lift, she said.
"I was surprised. I didn't know they did this type of thing," Pickett, 65, said as she watched Officer Graham Cage slap green paint on the trim of her house to match one of the school colors of Jones High School, her alma mater. "I'm so proud of the city of Orlando."
OPD Chief Paul Rooney spilled some sweat scrubbing dirt off the exterior walls with bleach while Ofc. Damon Barnes pushed the lawn mower across the overgrown grass.
Officer Amy Columbo took care of the patio banister and Lt. Christine Gigicos ripped out shrubbery.
"We are just trying to make her life just a little bit more pleasant," Osselyn said.
Jones High School senior-to-be John Thermidor, one of original members of the service program, said the mentorship has inspired the 18-year-old to pursue a collegiate career in either civil engineering or criminal justice.
"We want to make sure we leave a legacy with these young people and they are able to do the same things that we've done to kind of help make the city a better place to live," Osselyn said.
Copyright 2012 - The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.