Students, PRO team to construct accessible homeWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Seventeen-year-old Val Taylor lives in a little green house on Cason Avenue. The only door in the entire house that Val’s 400-pound wheelchair fits through is the front door.
Her parents must carry her if she needs to leave the front room. The driveway that leads up to the house is unpaved and Val’s chair sometimes gets stuck in the muck. When Sylvania Southview High School students observed their fellow classmate and her parents having difficulty getting her out the door and on the bus, they decided to do something about it.
“I thought, ‘How cool that kids would even think about such a thing and notice a need in someone,’” said Val’s mom
Veronica Taylor, a paraeducator.
Val has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, asthma, glaucoma and other disorders.
Southview students decided to use their annual fundraiser Dance for a Chance (D4AC) to help make the home more accessible for the Taylors. D4AC was started in 2004 and has raised more than $150,000 since then. Every year, students identify an issue and work to raise awareness for that cause through their fundraiser. Students are divided into four teams and compete in various contests and must be on their feet for 12 hours. On March 31, 300 students raised more than $30,000 for what they dubbed Project HAVEN (Home Accessibility for Val’s Exceptional Needs).
But, the student body realized it shouldn’t stop there and got the Professional Remodelers Organization (PRO) on board. The group, the largest independent remodelers organization in the country, decided to help through its President’s Project, which connects remodelers to community projects. The President’s Project began in 2010; PRO has been around for more than 40 years.
“Originally, our plans were to add an addition to the previous home,” said Rick Morel, PRO’s executive director. However, the group realized that wouldn’t work with the poorly aged structure.
“What we did was make a conscious decision that the best way of doing this was to knock down the existing structure and just build a new one,” Morel said.
He added, “I don’t know how [the Taylor family does] it. I really don’t. I just don’t know how they’ve done it all these years. They don’t complain … they just keep getting after it. Those are the kind of people that you like to help.”
A crowd gathered Sept. 5 at the Taylor house for a groundbreaking ceremony. Despite the rain, high school band members, baton-twirlers and cheerleaders showed up to support Val, who is known for her school spirit.
Catie Sack and Logan Griesinger, both seniors, are part of the school’s ambassador committee involved with D4AC. Through the project, they got to know Val and realized she has many of the same interests as other teenage girls — Katy Perry, Britney Spears and nail polish.
“Most of all, [the project] taught me even though there’s road bumps, there’s always a way to get around them,” Sack said after the ceremony.
Some of those bumps included dealing with a mortgage on the property, Morel said. Metamora State Bank was able to lend a hand in that department and several other community groups have also come on board. Still, more material and cash donations are needed. Depending on materials provided, the new house could have a garage and deck for Val to watch the birds on.
“People in Northwestern Ohio, generally speaking, have always been known as generous and we need a little bit more involvement to complete this project the way we’d like to,” Morel said.
More labor is also needed. “Anybody that can pound a nail straight, I think we’d be open to that,” Morel said.
PRO has some help from the construction class at Southview. “It’s very much hands-on and that’s what they need. We’re acting as mentors and laborers at the same time,” Morel said.
The new house will be 1,553 square feet, up from 540 square feet. It will have an open layout, two bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms.
Currently, Veronica and her husband Tom have to carry their daughter to the bathtub, which has become more difficult as Val has grown. The new bathroom will be ADA-compliant and eliminate the fear of dropping Val.
“It will be the most wonderful thing that could happen,” Veronica said of the new bathroom.
“We appreciate everything people have done and appreciate anything people could do. It would be a great opportunity to enrich our daughter’s life and improve her quality of life,” she added.
The cost of the project, with materials, temporary hotel housing and more, will exceed $150,000. The house is the largest President’s Project yet, said Milissa Clark, PRO’s marketing consultant. The project is set to take four to five weeks once construction begins.
“It’s just been a very long road, but we will see this thing to the end. That’s what we do,” Clark said.
The school also remains behind the Taylor family.
“Val is one of our most deserving students at Southview High School,” said Principal David McMurray at the ceremony, adding that he is very proud of his students.
To learn more, visit www.hireaprotoday.com or call (419) 471-0101. Donations can be made to the Professional Remodelers Organization Project HAVEN account at Metamora State Bank locations.