At the same time that some of this area’s youth were volunteering their time in remodeling and construction projects around the community, a group of area retired citizens were volunteering their time and expertise in a similar effort. For the teenagers, it was Project Sweat, a joint effort between several area churches. For the retirees - who all call Tanglewood Gardens home - it was a workshop for their neighborhood’s maintenance person.
In late April three residents of Tanglewood Gardens began to construct a workshop and storage shed for Ernest Bastardo, the community’s maintenance man. Ten weeks later, on July 12, the neighborhood held a celebratory cookout for the building’s dedication and also to thank him for the job he’s done over the years.
“Doil Hammons, current (homeowners’ association) board president, suggested last year that the neighborhood investigate the feasibility of providing a suitable workplace,” said Tom Tullar, one of the men who volunteered on the project. “Doil asked me to form a committee and investigate doing this. We came up with a location and size and then recommended we build it.”
“We decided our maintenance man needed a place to work when the weather is inclement,” Hammons said. “He was working out of his pickup, so there was no heat, no air.”
Tullar said the committee further proposed the project, “be constructed using neighborhood labor - in other words, ‘old men.’” In fact, by project’s end the only two outside contractors involved were hired to pour the concrete building pad and complete the electrical installation.
Tullar said the project was a good one for several reasons. For a group of retirees, he said, it was a project to plan through and then work on - a way for them to volunteer for a worthwhile cause.
“There appears to be a mindset among the elderly to not end up sitting under the shade of a pecan tree watching the world go by,” he said. “Such an attitude may go back to the days of the Great Depression when people born and raised during that time were very independent and self-sufficient, yet never hesitant to help a neighbor.”
Tullar, who at 77 years old was the youngster among the construction volunteers, was joined by Hammons, age 89, and Raymond McCoy, age 84. Bastardo also helped on the construction - and was “elected” to do all of the work on the roof, he said.
“Ernest is quite a bit younger, so he was ‘elected’ to do the roof work, preventing an unintended free fall by any of the elders,” Tullar said.
“We managed to contain ourselves very well,” Hammons said. “No mishaps.”
It also allowed the men to get to know one another more closely.
“The high point was getting to know the guys so much better,” Tullar said. “Working on something like this, you get to know them so much better than just going to meetings once a month. All of us were vets, so we have that in common. And we’re all Army vets, so that made it a little better.”
“We came very close in the project and enjoyed getting to know each other,” he said.
But Tullar said there was some good natured ribbing between the men during the project.
“What’s that old guy doing up on the ladder?” or “What’s that measurement again?” were common questions being thrown about by the three ‘old men,’” Tullar said.
And while Hammons had experience as an architect - he served in the Army Corps of Engineers from 1964 to 1981 - it was a learning experience for everyone involved.
“We’d work from 8 a.m. until 11:30 or 12, before it got too hot,” Tullar said. “It was a learning process. Doil knew all about building. Raymond had just about every tool we needed. We did a lot of things and I think we all learned from it.”
“We’d work until noon and we’d shut it down,” McCoy said.
The finished shed measures 12 feet wide by 26 feet long. It includes an indoor workshop with air-conditioning and heating; electric outlets and lighting; a workbench; and an outside area that is enclosed on two sides.
“Everybody went in and did a good job and just got it done,” said. McCoy. “It was good for him (Bastardo). We didn’t have a place for him. This was built for him so he’d have a place to get into if it was raining or too hot or too cold.”
According to Hammons, Tanglewood Gardens opened in 1990. He has lived there since 1997.
“We are a corporation in the State of Texas. We are incorporated to maintain homes that were built in this community, which is for those over 62 years old,” he said. “We are now running it ourselves the way it was originally developed. We’re a self-governing community.”