“I’m just thankful for all God’s done for me.”
Tom, 62, a Marine Corps veteran with disabilities, sat on the edge of his bed and wiped a tear from his eye, unable to continue speaking.
Around him, Tom’s home was filled with the sounds of demolition — hammers, power tools, the hollow noise of wood falling onto a debris pile — and happy chatter from NeighborLink Indy volunteers and 13 Clemson University students on a spring break service project.
The frenzy of activity around Tom on this warm March day started back in January when he called 2-1-1, a phone information and referral service that links people with available health and human services. Tom’s refrigerator had stopped working, and he needed a way to keep his diabetes medicine at the proper temperature.
Soon, Indianapolis organizations were joining hands to meet a myriad of needs. CICOA conducted an in-home assessment for services. Citizens Energy Group donated a new gas furnace. NeighborLink Indy posted Tom’s request on its website and was overrun with offers of help.
“Thanks to the mayor’s office, arrangements were made with the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation to obtain a fridge. But it could have been thanks to so many other good people,” said NeighborLink Executive Director Dave Withey. “We had generous offers from companies, church groups, health organizations, education groups and many individuals. That’s an incredible outpouring of generosity and caring.”
NeighborLink Indy is a faith-based nonprofit that connects low-income homeowners who are seniors or have disabilities with volunteers that can provide needed household repairs. In 2014, the organization completed 219 projects, many of them for CICOA clients.
NeighborLink volunteers began restoring the home to make it more accessible for Tom and his wheelchair. They widened the front doorway and then began building supports in the basement to shore up flooring that was collapsing.
With the help of the Clemson University Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) students, they are gutting the house, widening doorways and relocating the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.
“They are a great bunch of kids and are really going at it,” said NeighborLink Director of Operations Tom Hawkins. “We are opening up the floor plan to make it livable so Tom can stay here safely.”
Thomas Garrigan, a sophomore industrial engineering student at Clemson, said in all, 430 FCA students came to Indianapolis during their spring break to work on 35 different projects around the city.
“I’ve been super excited about it, being able to help out a veteran,” he said. “I love being able to come in and make a tangible, physical difference for Tom. I hope it will leave a lasting impact.”