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Volunteers build ramp for disabled veteran

A few tears and a lot of sweat and hard work were shared during a very special two-day work project that took place in Excelsior Springs late last week. Both Thursday and Friday volunteers from Rebuilding Together Clay County gathered to give Excelsior Springs resident and veteran Donald Tucker and his wife Anita a much-needed wheelchair ramp on their home located on Kent Street. Tucker, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1959-1964, was near tears at the start of the project.

Anita, who is Donald’s primary caretaker, said that the wheelchair ramp is not just a blessing but will make the couple’s lives easier day in and day out. After Tucker served in the Navy as an electrician who was primarily based at Terminal Island in Long Beach, Calif., during the “Police Action” that was the precursor of the Vietnam War, he and Anita made their life together here in Excelsior. Now, at age 72, Tucker has partial paralysis as a result of several strokes, which makes him susceptible to falling. Tucker has also lost his ability to speak, a frustrating challenge that was met with many smiles during the installation of the wheelchair ramp. Tucker owns a motorized wheelchair and after the ramp is finished he will finally be able to use it to its full capabilities, accordingly making his life easier and safer.

Rebuilding Together has been helping those in need throughout the Clay County area since 2001, but the project on Kent St. was made even more special when Royals Charities, a foundation associated with the Kansas City Royals baseball team, stepped up to help.

“The Royals Charities has a grant that you can apply for twice a year. They have four basic areas that they fund and one is for military veterans, so I applied with hopes to be able to help the Tucker family,” explained Rebuilding Together Executive Director Clay McQuerry. “Our organization is a non-profit and we can apply for a grant through Royals Charities up to twice a year. This time we were fortunate enough to get the grant to help the Tuckers.”

McQuerry said both organizations, Rebuilding Together and Royals Charities, put an extreme emphasis and have high priorities when it comes to providing essential assistance to local veterans and on improving the lives of military families.

Rebuilding Together volunteers began installation of Tucker’s new wheelchair ramp early Thursday morning, but McQuerry said the work did not begin there. “It’s fairly standard to have a group of six to eight volunteers working on a project. In this case the crew began work on Tuesday of last week while measuring the Tuckers’ porch area. Our safe at home volunteers (the title of the work crew volunteering for Rebuilding Together) are really good at what they do; they really know how to build a wheelchair ramp,” McQuerry added. “I have to tell you, these volunteers love what they do because they can tell it makes a difference. Usually there are a lot of hugs and a lot of tears shed during a project.”

After measuring for the ramp the crew had a better idea of what equipment, tools and lumber would be needed to get the project started. Rebuilding Together project manager Ed Kephart said the day before the project started the volunteers on the crew had picked up the lumber, had in hand their measurements of the Tuckers’ deck area and were ready to get started. Helping Kephart, longstanding Rebuilding Together volunteers Gary McCollough, Larry Daniels, Glenn Orr, Steve James, Warren Ploetner, Ron Petit, Randy Phillips and Tony Zahn were decked out in their Royals hats while building the perfect ramp for Tucker.

“We are extremely grateful to Royals Charities for funding this project. Wheelchair ramps are very expensive and we hope this is the beginning of a new relationship with Royals Charities. The main thing is that we are really glad we can help out Mr. Tucker; he’s looking very forward to using his motorized wheelchair, which makes it all worthwhile.”

By Friday afternoon the Rebuilding crew had nearly completed the project. Anita and Donald sat nearby, both watching the ramp take shape. After two days of hard work and very few setbacks the Tuckers can officially use Donald’s motorized wheelchair to travel in and out of their home.

Volunteers with Rebuilding Together Clay County set sections of ramp in place last Thursday, their first day at the home of Donald and Anita Tucker. Rebuilding Together partnered with Royals Charities for the project, which built a wheelchair ramp at the Tuckers’ home. (Photo by Jae Juarez)

Volunteers with Rebuilding Together Clay County set sections of ramp in place last Thursday, their first day at the home of Donald and Anita Tucker. Rebuilding Together partnered with Royals Charities for the project, which built a wheelchair ramp at the Tuckers’ home. (Photo by Jae Juarez)

To learn more about Rebuilding Together or to donate funds or lumber to the organization, contact McQuerry at 816-522-4113 or email rtclaycounty@att.net.

By Jae Juarez • jae@leaderpress.com

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