Adam and Kristen Polhemus organized painting crews to help their elderly neighbor facing thousands of dollars in fines for unkempt property
The property was a neighborhood eyesore: peeling paint, three-foot-high grass, an abandoned 1984 Plymouth.
The owner faced up to $3,000 per day in fines for code violations from Hamilton Township, New Jersey, but Anne Glancey had no money to pay for repairs, and no family or friends to help.
Until an unexpected act of kindness changed her life.
This past summer, Glancey’s young neighbors gathered together friends to fix up the house and erase the violations. And in the process, Glancey emerged from years of living a very socially-isolated life.
Five years ago, Adam and Kristin Polhemus moved next door to the highly private Glancey.
“Until my wife and I moved in, no neighbors had a conversation with her,” Adam says. “She had no relations with anyone in the neighborhood.”
As the months and years unfolded, Glancey began talking to Adam, 35, and Kristin, 34, eventually stopping by every day to chat.
“We formed a friendship,” says Adam, a New Jersey state trooper.
It was a close enough friendship that Adam and Kristin dropped hints that they would help Glancey fix up the deteriorating exterior of the house.
“But every time we brought up repairs, she would change the subject,” Adam says.
Then in June, Glancey showed the couple a letter she received from the town, which this year began cracking down on code violations under a new Neighborhood Improvement Program.
Glancey needed to scrape and paint her house, get rid of the rusted car and cut the grass; three violations in all, each with a fine of “No more than $1,000, per day, per violation,” the notice read.
“She said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do, I can’t do this myself,’ ” Adam recalls. “And I said, ‘Anne, we’ll help you get this fixed.’ ”
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Glancey, a retired teacher who grew up in the house and gives her age as “about twice” that of Adam’s, also called the violation notices “very upsetting.”
To lend a hand, the couple reached out to neighbors, friends and members of their church for help with the work. Up to 25 people showed up at a time over several weekends this summer.
They landscaped, donated the car to the Purple Heart Foundation, and scraped, primed and painted the house – jobs that Adam estimates would have cost $10,000 to $15,000 to complete.
“To have people show up because it’s in their heart to do that, to be there and help a complete stranger, that’s truly remarkable,” Adam says.
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The generosity has transformed the once solitary Glancey, who served the crews her grandfather’s carrot cake recipe and homemade orange juice. Now, she continues to interact with a widening social circle of other neighbors.
Hamilton Township officials also confirm to PEOPLE that Glancey’s property violations have been erased.
“To see the joy on our neighbor’s face, I think the biggest thing is Anne’s happiness and her kind of restored life,” Adam says. “Her outgoingness to other neighbors is based on her house being improved.”
“I appreciate their generosity,” Anne says of her big-hearted neighbors. “They are good Samaritans, really wonderful and thoughtful. Not everyone would arise to the occasion and I am grateful for it.”