Scott Becktell can finally take a shower.
Manette Merrill no longer lives in a moss green house.
And Linda Nicol doesn’t have to worry about her twin granddaughters falling off her second-floor deck.
All were beneficiaries of this year’s Central Whidbey Hearts & Hammers work crews that were dispatched to 30 homes Saturday for a variety of repair and maintenance projects.
Celebrating its 10th year, about 110 volunteers participated in the Work Day, with an additional 20 people helping out the kitchen crew making breakfast and dinner.
Supplies are donated or bought at a discount with money donated at fundraisers.
Becktell, 24, hasn’t been able to get into his family’s shower following an accident that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Walking to work two years ago, a car hit Becktell and sped off. He lives with his mother and siblings in a Coupeville mobile home park.
His wheelchair didn’t fit through the doorway leading into a room between the living room and bathroom. A ramp was also needed for him to be able to roll into the large shower.
“It’s been sponge baths for two years,” said Becktell’s mother. “I’m just so grateful this is happening.”
Jim Short, one of two head organizers of Central Whidbey’s Work Day, said Randy Williams with Penn Cove Architects was called in to see if he could figure out how to create a ramp in the limited space.
“It was a head scratcher,” Williams admitted on the job Saturday afternoon. “For a moment there, it was total panic. I really didn’t think I could figure it out. Then a strange calmness came over me.”
“See, that’s why we give him the hard jobs,” Short quipped.
First, the door was widened. Then, after a ramp got built, a drainage problem had to solved.
“This guy really needed some help,” Williams said. “This will really make him feel better.”
At Linda Nicol’s house in Greenbank, an all-woman’s crew led by Cindy Drimmel repaired rotted railings around decks and replaced a stairwell railing leading up to the second-floor deck. Janet Lewis, a woodworker of finely-crafted guitars, ukuleles and fine boxes, also contributed her expertise.
“Cindy and Janet have been doing classes for women and they’re teaching skills such as how to cut with table saw, band saw, and there was also a chainsaw class,” said Catherine Reid as she measured for a gate post.
“Most of these gals have taken the classes,” she said. “This is a continuation of it so Cindy formed a team with Hearts and Hammers.”
Linda Nicol watched in awe as the eight-woman crew measured and cut new railings, hauled away three dump trucks filled with accumulated junk in the yard and garage, trimmed branches and left her large yard tidy and groomed.
“It was neat having all women,” she said. “They were so helpful and so kind. I’ve needed this done for years.”
At her home, Manette Merrill watched as her exterior turned a gleaming white as years worth of accumulated moss got scraped from the back side and roof.
“These guys are amazing,” she said. “I’d never be able to do any of this. Since I was hurt in 2013, I can’t do any lifting.”
Watching a volunteer vigorously attack her deck surface to remove mold and stains, she commented about the “Neighbors helping Neighbors” motto of Hearts & Hammers.
“That’s like the epitome of small town living,” she observed. “I mean, who comes to someone else’s house to do something they probably dread doing at their own house?
“They must have cleared off 20 pounds of moss from my roof.”
Additionally, volunteers with the American Red Cross also installed new lithium battery-powered smoke alarms and looked for any unsafe rugs, cords or other hazards, another service provided during Hearts & Hammers Work Days.
Merrill said it was gratifying to see the range of ages among the work crew — from teenagers to grandparents.
“For two years I did it with my family and I really liked it,” said Cameron Toomey-Stout, a senior at Coupeville High School, out working with a friend. On a ladder under a spotless blue sky, he caulked seams on the exterior. “I’m mostly working on weather proofing.”
Following the long day of projects, volunteers gathered at a local church for a taco dinner. They sat and chatted with homeowners who are always invited to the traditional Work Day dinner.
Short announced some 15 tons of debris had been collectively removed from all the houses and taken to the Coupeville Solid Waste Complex. On Work Day, Island County waives dump fees for Hearts & Hammers loads.
“It’s a huge part of our ability to be able to do this,” Short said. “It’s thousands of dollars we don’t have to pay.”