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Community helps Marine veteran restore house

Kathryn Baarson served as an active-duty Marine from 1973-1979.
What was supposed to be a routine citation from the Glendale Police Department turned into over $150,000 worth of renovation work for a disabled Marine veteran’s home.

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What was supposed to be a routine citation from the Glendale Police Department turned into over $150,000 worth of renovation work for a disabled Marine veteran’s home.

Kathryn Baarson, after serving as an active-duty Marine from 1973-79 and in the reserves for a year, fell victim to a hoarding disorder, leaving her home in an unlivable condition.

The loads of trash and pests inside and outside of the home led to citations from the city and forcing Baarson to live in a hotel.

Two Glendale police sergeants gained Baarson’s trust and rallied volunteers to get the home back into a livable condition. Baarson said her home got to the point where she “just couldn’t do it anymore.” 

Sgt. Jeff Turney is one of the officers who took the lead on the project, along with 20 other organizations that assisted in installing the much-needed landscaping, painting, fence repair, window installation and more. 

While the house was clearly affecting Baarson’s health, Turney said it was initially a struggle to gain mutual trust. 

“It’s night and day from the first day we met. When I first met her, she would barely talk to me. It took me a year of talking to her and building trust. Finally, she called me, and I knew the window was small and we were in here on Christmas Day and the Marine Valentine’s Day project began,” he said.

By 8 a.m. Feb. 13, there were more than three dozen volunteers who showed up to help Baarson. Throughout the day, the number of volunteers nearly doubled.

The Boy Scouts, Vets for Vets and Operation Enduring Gratitude are just some of the few organizations that filled the front yard of the Glendale home on Valentine’s Day weekend.

Prior to the renovation, the home was infested with insects, bedbugs and loads of trash overwhelmed the home, making Barrson sick and forcing her to find shelter elsewhere.

“The bug guys told us we had to get rid of everything in the house. We had to strip the entire house down, throw everything away, all her clothes, all her personal items, all her pictures, everything. She had to completely start over,” Turney said. 

City code initially visited the residence in 2020 to cite Baarson for the excess food that was being left outside her house each week from delivery services from grocery stores. Fast forward a year, and all the rotten food was still there on the side of the home, attracting bugs and cats from all over the neighborhood. 

Baarson now has a freshly painted house, landscaping, new windows and gently used appliances, all donated from the community. 

“I don’t know if there’s even words. It’s overwhelming, and I appreciate every person here,” she said. 

Baarson acknowledged the challenge that she and many veterans have in seeking help. She said she hopes her journey encourages others to speak up when they’re in need. 

“It’s hard, but there is nothing wrong with reaching out for help and saying you can’t do something on your own,” she said.

—Staff writer Lauren Serrato can be reached at lserrato@

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