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first_imgBy Megan Bagdonas STAFF WRITER Working up a sweat for a good cause Wednesday, more than 40 volunteers from local Lowe’s hardware stores put the finishing touches on a group home for developmentally disabled men in Torrance. “I came to the house last year just to give them an estimate on the flooring and appliances when the residents showed up, and that was that,” said Gus Wahhab, store manager of Lowe’s in Torrance. By sunset, the home would have a freshly painted backyard wall, a gravel walkway, storage cabinets and a new sprinkler system to water all the grass, new flowers and shrubbery. “We’ve just been waiting for these last steps before we could move the boys in,” said Tom Mullen, who helped found STAR in 1973 after his son, who was born handicapped, died at the age of 2. “All of this is a memorial to him.” Mullen said that, while many charities tout how many people they serve, STAR is more focused on providing quality long-term care. “We can only serve a small number, but we’re like family,” said Mullen, who still refers to the male residents as “boys” – even though some are in their 40s – because he’s known them since they were teens. Amid the construction chaos, the “boys” who would be moving in arrived and began excitedly checking out their new rooms. “I’m going to put my computer here and my bed here and my TV here and my dresser right here next to the closet so all my clothes will be together,” said Tommy O’Brien, 52, who has been living in a house STAR rented during the construction. “I want to have a little office in here so I can e-mail my friend in Chicago right away.” Meanwhile, Larry Robbins, 32, got a good look at the spiffy new bathroom with two sinks. “I’ll be cleaning it,” he said. “That’s my chore.” Some residents have autism, others have Down syndrome, but they all share a desire to work and live in normal society. Many of the male and female residents who are able to work find jobs in mailrooms, recycling plants and cafeterias. “They deserve a place in society just like everyone else,” Wahhab said. “But they need someone to stand up for them, and I wanted to be their voice.” Bebe Manganello, a longtime supporter of STAR, went room to room looking at what her donations helped build. “You know that when you give money, you are donating to help mankind,” she said. “But it’s when you see something like this with your own eyes that you really know that it’s going to a good cause.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “Their smiles were so sincere and they were so full of love and they just wanted to give love.” Wahhab gave the nonprofit STAR (Society to Aid the Retarded) a deal on the flooring and appliances, but he didn’t stop there. He got eight Lowe’s stores from the region to select the group home for the company’s “Heroes Award,” which supplied $25,000 in supplies and labor. STAR operates two group homes in Torrance – one for women and one for men. However, five years ago, the men’s home was found to have structural damage and wasn’t handicap accessible, so it had to be torn down and rebuilt. Skyrocketing construction costs slowed down the home’s progress. In the fashion of the TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” truckloads of workers carrying shovels, sod, gravel and pipes descended upon the seven- bedroom, three-bathroom house in the 22000 block of Evalyn Avenue and got to digging. last_img

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