BRADENTON -- Like the celestial image that makes up the namesake of the Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida Foster Care Services, the agency is swooping in to help a Bradenton family at odds with the city, offering to make needed repairs to their flag-adorned Riverview Boulevard home.
Brent Greer and his wife, Catherine, are the adoptive parents of seven children and also serve as respite foster parents for other children in crisis. The Greers were licensed as foster parents through Guardian Angels.
The city code enforcement department has cited the Greers' home with nine violations, and threatened to fine the family $250 a day if they don't bring the house into compliance by June 17.
Brent Greer maintains the violations grew out of control after an unpleasant encounter with a code enforcement officer who first came to the Greer home in February to demand the removal of a Christmas tree outside the home. Code enforcement later returned with new complaints that the house was not painted up to standard, among other alleged violations. Greer has since painted his house like an American flag, saying it is a message to the city that "this is still America."
Greer, who owns Turfinator Lawn Services, plans to fight the city citations at a June 17 hearing. He said his family of nine cannot afford
the possible fines.
The agency that started the Greers on their foster care journey is responding.
"Guardian Angels has helped other foster homes that needed remodeling," said Bobbie Price of Guardian Angels. "We are in the process of getting someone to do the work and pay for any repairs the Greers may need."
Price said she doesn't know what the issues are with code enforcement, "but I think the community is ready to do what they can to help the Greers. I have known them through their interest in foster care and they are one of the rare families who have been willing to foster and adopt sibling groups, which is really hard to find. I feel they are very special people."
One company that has already pledged to help is Bruce Williams Homes in Bradenton. Britt Williams, president of the company, said Thursday he is stunned the Greers are having this kind of problem with the city.
"I've been by there before, and I didn't see anything that may or may not be an issue with their home," said Williams. "But I do know they should be applauded by our community for the way they have stepped up and adopted a number of children. They are doing the community a service and, if they need our help, then I feel so strongly about supporting them."
Since the Herald first reported the story on Tuesday, the Greers' dispute with the city has garnered headlines worldwide.
Greer said Guardian Angels contacted him late Thursday and is trying to get the work done before the June 17 hearing. He said he is still confused as to what to do since he disagrees with the violations. But as a father of seven in a 100-year-old house, he is grateful for the help and will listen to the experts.
"It is the most amazing thing I can imagine," said Greer. "When I started talking to the city, all they could do was threaten me. I was angry because you just know you are up against an entity that you can't beat. But then everybody started supporting this effort and it's a God-given blessing."
Code enforcement is expected to reinspect the Greer home June 16 to determine if a hearing is necessary.
Greer said he is still prepared to stand up for his home and while he is willing to address the issues the city has with his house, he will not be changing the colors.
"The flag stays," he said.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.