By MATT SANDERSON
ECHO PARK — The family of an 82-year-old woman who lost her Echo Park home in a fire has rallied to her support, maxing out their credit cards to buy building materials and starting a crowd funding effort to rebuild the house. However, the fundraiser is nowhere near its $50,000 goal, and last week the money ran out and construction on the unfinished home stopped.
Margarita Rodriguez, known to her family as “Mami Tita,” escaped the December 2013 blaze on Effie Street unscathed, but the home was a complete loss and all of her personal belongings were destroyed. The home was also “grossly underinsured,” leaving Rodriguez and her family struggling to raise the necessary funds to rebuild.
“We’re trying to [rebuild] as soon as possible,” said Helen Davidson, Rodriguez’ granddaughter. “I just know she wants to be at her house.”
The rebuilding project has suffered several setbacks, including a dispute with a contractor and rebuilding a brick foundation, which had to be removed by hand before a new concrete base could be built.
“That set us back,” said Mario Talamantes, who has been helping deal with architects, building permits and inspections. “We had to resubmit to the [city building department] to take out the footings and put in new ones.”
While Talamantes and Davidson say that many people have helped out, Rodriguez’s family has used its savings and maxed out its credit cards to purchase building materials and cover the labor needed to start rebuilding. The family began an online fundraiser – Grandma Needs a Roof at gofundme.com – to pay for new plumbing and electrical systems, air conditioning, heating, insulation, dry wall, roofing, stucco, windows and doors, Talamantes said.
But, as of today, Jan. 26, only about $1,425 had been raised. It’s not clear when construction will resume.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez, a retired downtown hotel worker who moved to Effie Street in the early 1960s, has been living in Rancho Cucamonga with her granddaughter. While she appreciates her family’s support, Rodriguez misses her home and active life in Echo Park.
“She took the bus to church and to the market,” Davidson said. “Where we live, none of that is close. She’s dependent on us.”
In a phone interview, Rodriguez said she can’t wait to return to Echo Park.
“I’m at peace but I would like to be home,” Rodriguez said.
Matt Sanderson has been a journalist, photographer and digital media producer for nearly eight years. A native of Rhode Island, he received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Hampshire and moved to Los Angeles in 2012 through a job transfer with Patch.com/AOL