“Yeah, I have furniture, but I don’t have no way to get it here.”
Lela, 54, was talking to her case manager about her new apartment, spartanly furnished with only a mattress on the floor, a card table and a lawn chair.
Lela suffers from pinched nerves in her neck and lower back, spinal stenosis, spinal spondylosis and scoliosis, among other diagnoses. Which means, according to Lela, that her spine is “pretty well shot.” As a result, she is on permanent disability and spends most of her time in an electric wheelchair.
“There are times when I am doing really good, and I can get around with a walker, but those are few and far between,” Lela explained.
The case manager called CICOA volunteer coordinator Dan Amonett, who in turn called several churches in Lela’s neighborhood for assistance before connecting with volunteer extraordinaire Dave Withey. Withey, 61, is a “pivot person” for a whole network of volunteers, Amonett said.
Although his career focused on networking computers at Lily, Withey’s focus in retirement seems to be using his handyman and networking skills to benefit others. He maintains a list of 80 to 100 people whom he can call on at any time to provide home repair and home modification services, often benefitting CICOA clients.
Suffering from a recent back injury himself, Withey knew he wasn’t in any condition to be lifting boxes or furniture. But when he put out a call for help, a team of six to eight people volunteered.
On a Saturday morning, the volunteers loaded Lela’s belongings into a truck, provided by Immanuel United Church of Christ. Four hours later, the boxes had been moved, the furniture arranged, and the hospital bed assembled. Lela directed volunteers from her wheelchair, holding her little Chihuahua, Taco, in her lap.
“There’s nothing I can put into words to describe how grateful I am for all their help,” Lela said. “I can never repay them for what they did.”
For Withey’s part, he describes volunteering simply: “It’s nice to be part of a good thing.”