Learn about our impact from the homeowners themselves.
1. Joe and Willie Mae
We had the privilege of meeting two very special homeowners with a very extraordinary life story. Joe and Willie Mae have been married for 72 years and are both currently 96 years of age. Joe grew up in Arkansas and Willie Mae grew up in Tennessee. Willie Mae met Joe while visiting friends in Arkansas, when they were both 15 years of age, as they walked and talked together at a county fair. According to Willie Mae, it was love at first sight.
A few years into their marriage, the US began its involvement in World War II. Joe was drafted and deployed oversees. During this time, Joe’s family moved to Milwaukee and Willie Mae soon followed. Joe was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946 and he returned to Willie Mae in Milwaukee, where they have lived ever since.
Joe was employed by Patrick Cudahy for 29 years before retiring in 1987. Willie Mae also worked outside the home, cleaning laundry at the Wisconsin Hotel. They purchased their first home in 1954 and still reside there today. Willie Mae reminisces about the past 57 years, explaining that the neighborhood isn’t like it used to be. She added that many of the young people in the neighborhood affectionately call her grandma and she tries to be very active in her community.
As they became older, both Joe and Willie Mae experienced increasing difficulty walking. Willie Mae had purchased a mobility walker, but struggled with entering and exiting their home. While they had done their best to maintain their home, age, along with a limited budget, had presented a daily struggle to do so. We met with the couple and, alongside an occupational therapist, assessed Joe and Willie Mae’s accessibility and safety needs.
Joe and Willie Mae’s project was generously sponsored by the local company, Honeywell, and a large volunteer team formed within the business’s workforce. Through the guidance of our staff and volunteer contractors, a list of projects was determined and building materials were purchased. All repairs were completed at no cost to the homeowners.
“We are truly blessed to receive this help.”
— Joe & Willie Mae
Jose is a retired foundry worker who has lived with diabetes for over 20 years. He was born in Mexico and moved to Milwaukee in 1979 where he has spent 27 years in his current home.
As a result of his medical condition, both legs were amputated and he now uses a wheelchair. With no ramp allowing him easy access in and out of his home, his daughters had to carry him up and down the stairs but often found they could not do it alone. “We literally had to knock on neighbors’ doors to see who could help us,” his daughter Silvia said.
Jose’s lack of mobility caused him to suffer from depression—he missed being able to enjoy the outdoors and trips to his favorite place, 7 Mile Fair. On his 68th birthday, we were happy to let him know that a contractor would begin building a ramp for him.
Not only did the ramp help Jose regain his sense of independence by allowing him to leave and enter his home safely, but it also alleviated his depression .
Michelle is the single mother of Abigail and Autumn, a seven-year-old girl with Angelman Syndrome—a rare neuro-genetic disorder characterized by developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures and walking and balance disorders. The condition has left Autumn with the cognitive ability of a toddler and confined to a wheelchair because of her frequent falls and fragile bones. When her husband passed away unexpectedly in 2016, Michelle was left to raise their two girls on her own. As Autumn grew heavier, Michelle struggled more and more to fold and unfold the wheelchair and carry her in and out of their home. Even with all her struggles, Michelle didn’t want to ask for help. It took consistent urging from her friend for her to finally reach out to us.
Our contractors built a wheelchair ramp to ease access in and out of the house. They also replaced the vinyl flooring in the bathroom with non-slip flooring and installed grab bars to prevent falls as Michelle lifts Autumn in and out of the tub. But perhaps the most life-changing for Michelle’s family were the modifications made to Autumn’s bedroom. The combination of Autumn’s cognitive and physical disabilities made it impossible for Michelle to have a moment of peace. She had to constantly monitor her activity to ensure she was safe. We made a secure place for Autumn to play by padding all the walls and installing a half-door, which allowed Michelle to see in without allowing her to get out. These repairs were truly life-altering for the family.
These are just some of the hundreds of homeowners we serve each year.
Stories like these are all too common and we are the only resource that provides these repairs for free. Support us by donating or volunteering!