For four years, Josh Cyganik passed by Leonard Bullock’s home in Pendleton, Oregon, each day on the way to work, silently waving and nodding at the 75-year-old man he knew only in passing.
That all changed one morning when, to Cyganik’s horror, two teenagers made comments ridiculing the state of Bullock’s home—within his earshot.
“They just need to burn it down,” one reportedly said, as the other called the house “crappy.”
“I saw him [Bullock] put his head down and it was clear he was upset,” Cyganik told TODAY.com. “I thought about saying something to the boys, but sometimes anger is better left unsaid and I took a different course of action that ended up paying off more so than if I yelled at them.”
Cyganik, 35, who who works as a track inspector for the Union Pacific Railroad in an office across the street from Bullock’s home, offered to paint the elderly man’s house on the spot.
It was their first conversation after years of cordial hellos.
“[Leonard] could hardly talk he was so ecstatic,” Cyganik told ABC News. “He sits on his porch every day all day long so I wanted to give him a nice canvas to sit in front of.”
Bullock was appreciative and happily agreed to let Cyganik paint.
Cyganik then posted a message to Facebook to recruit help. The post spread, with over 6,000 shares.
By the morning of July 18, Cyganik had over 100 volunteers sign up to help, with some even driving from Texas, Washington, and California to be a part of the effort.
“I couldn’t believe the turnout,” Cyganik said to TODAY.com. “I stopped counting at 95 because I couldn’t keep up, but it ended up being well over that.”
People who could not make it sent food and water. Others donated money to Bullock and his wife.
With paint donated from a lumber supplier, Cyganik and his volunteers painted the home from white and turquoise to beige.
“A lot of people are calling me a hero, but I just wanted to paint a house,” Cyganik told ABC News. “That’s just how I was brought up … to respect your elders and help people in need.”
The Bullocks watched the home makeover while sitting on lawn chairs. They sat on their front porch until 11 p.m. that night to wave as cars passed by to see the house.
“I know that will probably be the last coat of paint he sees on the house,” Cyganik said. “So for me to give him that and to be able to see him on the porch smiling with a beautiful backdrop made it all worth it.”