Danielson Elks build ramp for Canterbury vet

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Canterbury - posted Mon., Jun. 24, 2013
Paul Senuick holds a 4 x 4 pressure-treated post while Jim Paquin checks the level. Photos by D. Coffey.
Paul Senuick holds a 4 x 4 pressure-treated post while Jim Paquin checks the level. Photos by D. Coffey.

The sweat poured off Mike Brodeur's face at 8:30 in the morning on June 24. He and seven other Danielson Elks from Lodge 1706 had already dug six post holes, removed stones from a walkway, and laid out the general area of a new wheelchair ramp they were completing for veteran Raymond Donais. With help from five Home Depot volunteers, the men would measure and cut pressure treated boards, and rails, mix concrete, set posts, lay down decking and pour a cement pad. It was already 85 degrees. The men would need all day to finish the project.

What brought the Elks and Home Depot crew together was a need recognized by Day Kimball Homecare Clinical Supervisor Michelle Blanchette. Since Donais had finished rehabilitation at Westview and moved into his daughter's Canterbury home, it had been difficult for him to get in and out of the house. After a stroke and open heart surgery in 2007, Donais' ability to move around has been diminished. Donais' daughter Andrea had to walk behind him holding onto a gait belt as they navigated the four front steps. The ramp would make it possible for him to use his lightweight wheelchair to get in and out of the house.

When Blanchette approached Elks member Melanie Swantek, she took the request to her lodge meeting. It wasn’t long before contractor and Elks Trustee Jim Paquin visited the home to draw up plans for the ramp. When Swantek had a list of necessary supplies, she approached Home Depot and they agreed to contribute some of the materials and volunteers to the effort.

In the past, Home Depot volunteers have helped plant flowers in Jewett City planters, planted shrubs at the Preston Revolutionary War Memorial, completed a deck for a woman who lost a son in Afghanistan, and helped build dugouts at the Jewett City Little League Field.
Last year, the Danielson Elks built a ramp at the home of a veteran living in Moosup. “We help vets any way we can,” Brodeur said. “Just this year, and just in Connecticut, the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks have donated more than $100,000 to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center,” he said. 

Donais, who served as an instrument man in the Navy from 1954 to 1958, was appreciative. “I never thought I'd have it done,” he said. “Without that I'd be confined to the house.” Booger, a year-old boxer that he calls his sidekick, stayed close to his side. “There are good people in the world,” Donais said.

Outside, Paquin, Brodeur, Senuick, Russ Boulet, Steve Hegedus, Paul Swantek, David Crowley, and Stosh Malek moved through piles of lumber and bags of concrete mix. They skirted extension cords and post holes. Eighty pounds of cement had to mixed and poured. Thirty-five feet of ramp had to be built.

“I really appreciate it,” said Donais.

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