HOUSTON – The work is exhausting and the damage is extensive, but step-by-step neighbors are teaming up to help Jose Saldana and his family recover.
"This house has a lot of memories," Saldana's daughter Emma Jean Trevino said. "A lot of memories."
The house on Decatur Street in the Sixth Ward was heavily damaged earlier this month by fire. They lost almost everything, including two puppies.
The home has been in the neighborhood for 100 years. It's been a part of the Saldana family for 90 years.
"I can't describe it," Trevino said while fighting back tears. "I can't because this is all I knew, all my life. This is all I knew."
So neighbors and volunteer groups decided to band together to remove the charred rubble and help the Saldana family, who didn't have insurance on the home, jump-start the process of rebuilding.
The reason they're helping? Because Jose Saldana has spent decades helping so many of them.
"He's a fixture in this neighborhood," Kathy Vossler, president of Houston's Super Neighborhood 22, said. "He mows lawns and helps people on the side and he's a hardworking man. and we just really appreciate that and we respect that."
As they dug through the damage, they continued to find precious memories. They are also strengthening precious bonds in their community at the same time.
"I don't have words to describe how much I appreciate everyone helping," Saldana said.
"Why do I come help Jose?" asks Iris Rodriguez who is a neighbor of the Saldanas but also happens to be a captain with HFD. "That's not the question you should be asking. The question you should really be asking is, 'Why aren't we all here doing it all the time?' We always should be helping each other. That's what neighbors do."
The Saldanas are hoping to be able to move back into the home sometime in the next year but they have a long way to go in that process. They have set up a GoFundMe account to help with the expenses.