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The Upside
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A struggling older couple was shamed for their aging house. Hundreds of people stepped in to help spruce it up.

“We know that our house needs painting — they didn’t need to point it out to us.”

The note that the Curcuru family received in July telling them their house is an “eyesore.”
The note that the Curcuru family received in July telling them their house is an “eyesore.”Read moreMichelle Baran

Jimmy Curcuru found an anonymous note in his mailbox last summer that was short and cutting:

“Please Paint Me! Eyesore — Your Neighbors. Thanks!”

It was addressed to “Current Resident” and was referring to the house that Jimmy and Marilyn Curcuru have lived in for 51 years in the coastal town of Gloucester, Mass.

“It was frustrating to read it, and also hurtful,” said Jimmy Curcuru, 71. “We know that our house needs painting — they didn’t need to point it out to us.”

It also bothered him that the letter writer didn’t have the guts to sign it.

“If they’d knocked on the door and asked about it, I could have told them why this was happening to our house,” he said.

Curcuru had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery about 15 years ago that left him physically unable to take on big home repairs or afford to hire someone to do them, he said. And his wife, Marilyn Curcuru, 72, who has multiple sclerosis, is mostly confined to bed.

“I used to enjoy working on the house, but now it’s hard for me to do it,” said Jimmy Curcuru, a retired picture framer. “It’s not a good idea for me to get up on a ladder.”

As it turned out, he didn’t have to.

Hundreds of people have chipped in with offers to help since late July, when one of the Curcurus' daughters, Michelle Baran, received her dad’s permission to post the letter on Facebook.

“My family for many years took care and maintained this house as best they could, but due to some circumstances, the house repairs have got to be too much for them,” she wrote. She then posted a response to the letter from her sister, Lynanne Curcur, who is their mother’s caregiver.

Lynanne noted that she had often driven past houses in disrepair and wondered what was happening in the families' lives.

“I don’t judge them not knowing what they may be going through,” she wrote. “And to the concerned ‘neighbor,’ I don’t hate you. I feel bad for you that your parents didn’t teach you to be kind to your neighbors.”

Supportive comments poured in from people in Gloucester and beyond with offers to help repair the Curcurus' house, which was last painted about 35 years ago. Local retailers offered discounts on renovation materials, she said, and the mayor of Gloucester, Sefatia Romeo Theken, dropped by to see if there was anything she could do.

One of the Facebook commenters, Faye Passanisi, started a GoFundMe page for the Curcurus; it has grown to help cover the cost of paint or siding, an updated wheelchair ramp, and a new roof and windows. More than $78,000 has been raised so far.

“I decided to tell people, ‘Let’s turn this hurt into the biggest blessing this family has ever known,’” said Passanisi, 69.

Jimmy Curcuru said he is overwhelmed by the kindness of his Gloucester community.

“People look out for each other,” he said. “If somebody needs some help, we just get together and do it. It’s all just very heartwarming.”

He and his wife met at a drum and bugle band concert while attending Gloucester High School, and recently celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary, he said.

“When Marilyn developed MS about 30 years ago, she did pretty well for a long time,” he said. “Then four years ago, she ended up getting a bed sore that got infected, and she’s pretty much bedridden now.”

The couple raised three children in the four-bedroom, two-bath home, including Lynanne, who now lives upstairs.

“It’s been a good home for us,” said Jimmy Curcuru. “I still do the yard work and the housecleaning, but the things that need repairing have started to add up.”

Baran said she hopes the person who wrote to her parents is aware of how Gloucester residents have stepped up.

“At this point, it no longer really matters who the person is — we’ve been overwhelmed with kindness,” she said.

Her dad said he has much love for his hometown.

“I wish that I could thank everybody personally,” he said. “I’ll have to write a ‘thank you’ letter at the end of all this and publish it in the paper. Nothing will be anonymous,” he added, because he and his family will make sure they sign their names at the bottom.