Volunteers lay foundation for new nonprofit | AspenTimes.com

Volunteers lay foundation for new nonprofit

Janet Urquhart
Emilio Martinez keeps track of the progress as Dave Savage, left, and Steve Carter work on the bathroom of the Martinez home in Glenwood Springs Saturday, April 30, 2005. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox

Amid the buzz of saws and pounding of hammers, a new local nonprofit arose from the sawdust in Glenwood Springs on Saturday.By dinnertime, a local familys condo had been retrofitted for a youngster who must use a wheelchair and the foundation for Rebuilding Together had been laid.For volunteers launching a local affiliate of the nationwide program, yesterdays whirlwind construction project was only the beginning.For the Martinez family, including 8-year-old Emilio, the crew of power-tool-toting strangers who tore apart their bathroom and put it back together again were the answer to a prayer.While his Spanish-speaking parents watched with a measure of disbelief as their modest home was transformed into a construction zone, exuberant Emilio and his younger sister, Yuilza, eagerly posed for photographs and tracked the crews progress with wide-eyed excitement.Emilio, afflicted with the crippling birth defect spina bifida, maneuvered deftly in his wheelchair, zipping across the parking lot outside his home and playfully sparring with his sister. She does not escape his reach, nor his affection, despite her brothers limited mobility.With a wide grin and warm brown eyes, Emilio appears oblivious to the chair until his environs toss up an insurmountable roadblock namely the flight of outside stairs up to the Martinezes second-floor condo and the homes narrow bathroom doorway.I cannot believe it, he said, peering into the bathroom halfway through its transformation. A dividing wall between the bathroom entry and an adjacent closet was gone; a new, wider doorway was being framed.Part two of the project, which hinges on a fund-raising effort, will bring the installation of an outdoor lift so that Emilio can ride up and down between the balcony outside the familys front door and the parking lot below.Now, his father, Julio, carries him up and down the stairs and helps him in and out of the bathroom. While his dad is at work, his mother, Maria, helps Emilio out of the wheelchair so he can maneuver up and down the stairs on his rump.The small condo on the second floor was all the family could afford, said Julio, who works as a dishwasher in Aspen.Emilio was diagnosed with spina bifida before he was born, but his parents chose not to terminate Marias pregnancy.We wanted to have him, but we knew it was going to be hard for Emilio and hard for us, said his father through translator Neyma Rodriguez of the Family Resource Center.Maria was well aware the day would come when Emilio would be too heavy to carry.The only thing I was doing was praying every day because I didnt know what I was going to do, she said, with Rodriguez translating. I knew he was going to get older and bigger.Julio braced for the day he would have to find a new home for the family in the valleys high-priced housing market.Now, they can stay put.Spearheading Saturdays project was a group of participants in Leadership Roaring Fork, some of whom are committed to forming a local affiliate of Rebuilding Together that will take on similar efforts on an annual basis.Projects are traditionally done on the last weekend in April around the country. Some of the affiliates will do upward of 150 projects during that weekend, said Paul Bonin, a project manager with Shaw Construction and Leadership Roaring Fork class member. I think as the idea gets into the community well find theres a need for this sort of thing.Its a good thing to do, he said. You know, we get so self-focused in our own lives.This is such an affluent valley, but there are so many people who own their homes but cant afford to repair them. They need something like this, added Jan Alling, who was helping paint a bedroom at the Martinez home yesterday with some of her Roaring Fork Leadership classmates.Out on the back porch, another group was building storage shelves for the family.Rebuilding Together pairs skilled tradesmen with volunteers. Yesterdays project combined the labor of Roaring Fork Leadership class members with a drywall team donated by Elite Drywallers and carpenter Dave Savage, provided by A&E Construction. Virtually everyone who was asked to contribute stepped up, according to Steve Carter and Christie Leonard, in charge of procurement.Riegles Mechanical of Grand Junction donated the handicap-accessible sink that was installed in the bathroom, a lift manufacturer has agreed to provide the lift at 10 percent below cost and The Elevator Co. will donate its installation. RMS Concrete will pour a platform for the lift and BMC West donated many of yesterdays building supplies.Wells Fargo, Paradise Bakery and City Market all stepped up as well (the crew needed sustenance) and Alpine Bank has indicated it will help fund the lift, Leonard said. Shaw Construction is donating $1,000, according to Bonin.The Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post Independent are offering $1,000 in matching funds for the lift during the month of May. Anyone who wishes to make a contribution should endorse a check to Roaring Fork Leadership and designate Rebuilding Together on the memo line. The fund-raising target is $7,500. Checks can be dropped off with project team member Janet Urquhart at The Aspen Times or mailed to Urquhart in care of the Times at 310 E. Main St.; Aspen, CO 81611.Janet Urquharts e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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