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BEFORE AND AFTER: Two dozen volunteers empty a once-trashed Albion apartment in two hours

Volunteers help clean trashed Albion apartment
Posted at 12:10 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 12:49:10-05

ALBION, N.Y. (WKBW) — Two weeks ago, 7 Problem Solvers introduced you to Vickie Golisano, the Albion landlord who had one of her apartments trashed by tenants before they were evicted. Since then, we've been flooded with dozens of requests to help to we decided to organize a 7 News Day of Action, to clean the space. It was a day of unity, new bonds, even family reunions, and the definition of Buffalo Strong.

Local masons from Renovation Lodge #97 showed up, local property owners, husbands and wives, families, and some made the decision to drive out alone on Saturday morning.

Volunteers came from as near as across the street from Golisano, to as far as Hamburg. Others traveled from the Town of Gaines, Akron, Tonawanda, South Buffalo, Gasport, and right from the 7 News studios in downtown Buffalo, bringing bags, gloves paper towels and more effective tools.

Volunteers of all ages even showed up, including 6-year-old Mya Davis, who was helping lift up the carpet.

"I love helping people," emphasized Davis while grabbing garbage to throw away.

Coleen Hanna and her husband Wayne Whitaker drove an hour and 20 minutes from Hamburg Saturday morning.

After seeing our original report Hanna said, "I got to ask Wayne if he wants to do this, because if not I'm coming by myself!"

The couple collected garbage to throw away in a dumpster donated by ARG Disposal and Transfer of Albion.

"We got to let Vickie know there are good people in the world," explained Hanna. "We love Vickie and we have to help Vickie."

Golisano said the tenants who lived in the apartment were evicted last month. She said after causing thousands of dollars in damage before being evicted, the tenants wrecked the apartment more, leaving it for Golisano in shambles.

"I think we see an example here of the poorer side of humanity," said Whitaker. "We also see some of the best, in the way the community has come to support Vickie."

Within minutes of all volunteers arriving, broken furniture was being hauled out, dirt was scraped off a grimy basement floor, and pounds and pounds of broken, damaged and dirty collectibles, toys, and more were loaded into big black garbage bags.

"There was a lot of work that needed to be done," said Matthew Hollenbeck of Albion. He was helping to move out abandoned stoves and fridges. "I was just surprised at how fast it took to be done."

Within two hours the apartment was emptied, and carpets stripped down to the floor boards.

"You always have pride where you came from and where you grew up," said Hollenbeck. "You see something like this, you put on some gloves and help out…It's the neighborly thing to do."

When it was time for Golisano to see it for the first time, she was in shock opening the front door.

"Oh My God! Thank you all," emphasized Golisano to the volunteers. "They're sent here by God."

Golisano is a survivor of cancer, domestic abuse, heart attack and stroke. She's also paying medical bills for the kidney disease she's battling. Saturday she said a weight was taken off her shoulders, physically, mentally and financially.

"This is like the last day of chemo," said Golisano through tears. "Like being told you're good to go."

It not only lifted her spirits, but the volunteers as well.

"I was beginning to feel disgruntled about things in the past," said Tom Swiatowy, of Akron. He described the apartment as disgusting.

"This has changed and uplifted my heart, and really made a difference," said Swiatowy.

"This is what Buffalo is about," said Ilona Lanning of Tonawanda, who traveled herself. "When someone needs something we step up."

Some of the volunteers have a background in home repairs and told Golisano they look to come back to make the apartment livable again soon. Since more work needs to be done, Golisano's step-sister, Vicki Saulsbury , created a GoFundMe.

Saturday was even more meaningful for Golisano and Saulsbury. They didn't have the correct phone numbers for each other, but after Saulsbury heard the original report she emailed 7 News asking to connect them. This time they exchanged correct phone numbers!

"A blessing in disguise," as the sisters referred to Saturday.

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