Volunteerism is alive and well in Cape Coral, according to resident Ray Nicholson.
He and a group of volunteers are helping out local code enforcement by mowing lawns, landscaping, doing repairs and more to abandoned homes and commercial properties.
In fact, they are now at nearly 1,000 local improvements.
"We are up to 955," Nicholson said. "The reason we have been such a success is because of the people who have joined us."
He and a core group that make up Take Pride in the Cape meet every Friday and Saturday and go to work in the area - and they have fun, too.
Nicholson is a retired code enforcement supervisor for the city, and said he was disturbed with the number of unsightly properties in the area.
He decided to spread the word and now about 10 to 12 core members go out a day or two a week for last three years.
If a house needed mowing or trimming, they do it.
These are the homes that are foreclosed and nobody is care of them, he said.
He actually started doing this in the late 1980s.
A native Floridian, he came back to the Cape then.
"A whole lot of things happened at once, starting at the end of 1987. Then in 2008 the roof fell in on the economy," he said.
More and more homes were abandoned.
"I just could not stand it anymore."
It started small with just a lawn or two.
"Then we got more and and more people who were interested in helping out," Nicholson said.
Many used their own home lawn mowers, but that got to be too much.
"People started donating commercial equipment, and we took off from there. We've had as many as 14 to 15 people working a day at as many as seven sites a day," he said.
The group also gets invaluable help from Waste Pro, Keep Lee County Beautiful and Ida Baker High School Key Club members.
Members not only donate time, but funds as well. They have received donations here and there, but it is out of pocket for the majority.
"We've paid for our own gas and equipment," said Take Pride in the Cape volunteer Joyce Amann. "We also buy our own tools, and Waste Pro has donated a trailer to keep all of our our equipment."
Amann is a retired police officer from Connecticut.
"It is the 'broken widow theory'- we learned if a house in a neighborhood is abandoned and in disrepair it will attract crime, and it brings vandalism. One house can bring a street down. The better the city looks, the better for everybody."
That includes the local real estate market, she added.
"Who's going to buy it (the property) if weeds are overgrown, the lawn bad? The better it looks the better for sales."
The group has fun when they do a weekly breakfast, said Amann, before hitting the lawns.
If you would like to be involved, contact Nicholson at 283-2581.