GREENVILLE — The kindness of others has led to a better lease on life for a local man.
Cary VanDeGrift, who has battled health issues for years, was reportedly all smiles when he returned home from a three-month hospital/nursing home visit on Sept. 30, a week before he was formally discharged from the facility.
The 61-year-old found that someone had built a ramp and a walkway leading from the back of his residence to the alley in back.
Yes, NextStep Ministries, a branch off of the EUM Church in Greenville, made the project possible. It is known as Community Construction and is one of NextStep’s many services.
Kelly admitted that she hadn’t heard of Community Construction even though they have attended the church for a number of years.
“We had already done a lot of modifications to the house,” said wife Kelly. “Then someone in physical therapy at Rest Haven [the nursing home where her husband was residing] told me to call the church and talk to Krista Cutarelli. I called and Larry Fourman of Larry Fourman Construction was already here. I was overwhelmed with their vision because it was all new to us.”
Kelly went on, “One of our dear friends, Scott Richards, had put in a bigger door in the back, since ours was old-fashioned and tiny. He also built the walkway from the ramp to the alley. And, he did our bathroom, and John Paulus helped with the plumbing. It was done within two days.”
It was first thought the proposed ramp would be built at the front of the house, located at 439 Harrison Ave., Greenville, but then it was decided to put it at the rear so that Cary could enjoy his backyard on warm days.
According to Cutarelli, there were at least 12 volunteers who showed up to work.
“They were here Saturday morning at 7:15 and were done by 4 p.m.,” said Kelly. “It was amazing it could be done in a day. I really feel God has blessed us tremendously to put people in our lives. Some people working here didn’t know us but they came together. People worked hard and enjoyed themselves. It was amazing, the teaching, camaraderie and patience with the people who have done it before. Our son-in-law, Chris Fields, said it was like making new friends and learning something as he helped alongside them. One lady even helped me trim a bush and pull weeds. It really was a wonderful day on my weekend off.”
According to Kelly, her husband has had numerous health complications, including heart disease and vascular disease, for quite a few years and, then on July 15, this year, he found out he was in acute renal failure and was transported to Miami Valley Hospital.
“We had to no idea,” said Kelly, who works third shift at Wayne HealthCare and for a local doctor during the day. “Here, his many health issues masked the renal failure. Our lives changed completely. Then, in a few weeks he went to Rest Haven where dialysis was started. Nothing can be fixed with his health factors. He was disabled several years due to his heart disease and osteoarthritis in his left hip and now he’s not a candidate for any surgical procedures. This is forever. It changes your life, but with faith, family, friends and church, we just get up and start another day. It’s not day-by-day but moment-by-moment as a doctor said.”
She continued, “There is a lot of education we have had to learn and a lot of restrictions we’re learning. We were at our wit’s end when he came home. My schedule is a little hectic and with him getting sick with renal failure and now undergoing dialysis, which he does Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, all afternoon, I had to adjust my work hours.”
However, she said when the ramp got built, a weight was lifted off her shoulders. She and her husband wanted him back home, and this would make it possible.
“His spirit was rough in the hospital,” Kelly said. “There were a lot of roadblocks with the red tape in getting him home. He was so afraid he wouldn’t get to come home. He prays for strength every time he stands up; the doctor even said that. He had to build his leg and arm strength back up. His quality of life is 100 percent more than what it was.”
Daughter Caroline moved back home from Cincinnati, where she was going to school, to help out her parents.
“She wanted to help,” Kelly said. “She is here at night when I’m at work.”
The VanDeGrifts also have two other daughters, Katie Fields who lives in Cincinnati with husband Chris and her daughter Lucie, who will be 1 on Nov. 9, and Rebecca, who lives in Michigan.
Cutarelli, the organizer of the ramp project, said the Community Construction volunteers did two other ramps this summer; one on Oakwood and last weekend for Roger Ewing, a member of the church, as well as the VanDeGrifts.
“We provide free labor and the homeowner has to pay for supplies,” said Cutarelli. “It’s hard work. We do it when we get the volunteers. together. And, our volunteers try to clean up the debris afterwards.”
“Ansonia Lumber gave us a discount, and Community Construction paid for our new gates in the back,” Kelly said.
The VanDeGrifts met while in 4-H with horses and have been married for 36 years.
The former Kelly Shane is starting to breathe again in her care-taking duties.
“Most important to me, I can’t feel sorry for myself,” she said. “If you do, you can go down pretty quick. I look around and there is always someone worse. Cary is alive. Now he is seeing possibilities and looking forward to going back to church. It’s exhausting, but you can’t go there and look back. Look around and be thankful. God blessed us with the church. I hope they can get more volunteers in doing this wonderful thing.”