In the Fall of 2015, the Access North Independent Living Program staff in Hibbing was contacted by the Veteran's Service Office in Itasca County with a request to assist one of their veteran clients, Robert Breese, with obtaining a more accessible means of entering and exiting his home. Access North has a proud history of coordination with the Veteran’s Service Offices within its capacious service area, so the IL Staff eagerly accepted the referral and made contact with Mr. Breese.
Upon arriving at the residence, it was immediately apparent to IL staff that the stairs to his front door could present a definite obstacle to accessibility. The tread was quite narrow and the rise was notably steep on the small deck's stairway.
Robert, a veteran of the United States Navy, who served as an Aviation Machinist from 1956 to 1960, is quite a good-spirited, positive gentleman, despite the obstacles that he successfully has battled in his life. Having battled two different types of cancer, diabetes, a pacemaker, and a bad back, Mr. Breese is nothing less than resilient and determined. However, he stated that the degenerating condition of his back had rendered him unable to safely navigate the steep stairway to the front entrance of his home. This situation had caused him to spend most of his time within the walls of his home, preventing him from enjoying the pleasure of cooking outside on the grill, sitting on the dock to watch a sunset, or spending time with his favorite hobby - fishing.
After completing the initial intake interview and ramp program application, IL staff looked to Lori Huber, the store manager of the Grand Rapids Home Depot, for assistance with funding to provide Robert with an accessible entrance to his home. Home Depot, as a company, has always prided itself in giving back to those veterans who have sacrificed for the greater good of our nation, so Lori was enthusiastic about assisting us with this project. Through Home Depot's Framing Hope Program for Veterans, Lori pledged to provide the materials, as well as a number of volunteers from her store to make this project take place.
Bob Brown, US Navy Veteran and Access North Ramp Program originator, designed a deck with low rise stairs for Mr. Breese. The deck was intentionally designed to be large enough to enable Robert to enjoy his treasured barbeque grill. "It is so rewarding to help a brother veteran increase the accessibility and enjoy-ability of his home," stated Brown.
On January 7, 2016, retired Access North Ramp Program Coordinator - Bob Brown, current Access North Home Access Coordinator and US Army Veteran - Jason Worlie, and agency maintenance person and US Army Veteran - Greg Christensen, met with Lori Huber and a crew of volunteers to build an accessible deck with low-rise stairs for Robert Breese. By the end of that snowy, wintery day, he was cheerfully enjoying his new deck with his beloved wife. "As a veteran, I know the hoops that a vet has to jump through to get what they need, so it pleases me to be able to help this man avoid all of that to help him make his home more accessible," Jason Worlie explained. Greg also stated, "It felt great to be a part of such a wonderful project."
This project was the catalyst to a valuable partnership between Home Depot and Access North. Lori Huber states, "It has been a great opportunity for Home Depot to join together with Access North to help veterans within our local community." Since the Breese project, Home Depot and Access North have entered into an ongoing partnership through the Framing Hope Program to provide other house related items for consumers in need, such as doorways, home appliances, and flooring.
Those of us at Access North would like to say a heartfelt, "Thank You" . . .
- to Lori Huber
- to the Home Depot volunteers
- to Bob Brown
- to Jason Worlie
- and to Greg Christensen