Habitat, OCAP partnership helps improve life for couple

Published 9:51 pm Friday, December 25, 2020

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Every time Mary Richards wanted to leave her house, it was an act of faith: faith to keep her balance, faith to navigate her wheelchair, and faith that her strength would hold. What she needed was an access ramp.

Faith is often its own reward, but sometimes a little help comes in handy. For Mary, that help took the form of Troy-Pike Habitat for Humanity affiliate members who over the span of two weekends constructed an access ramp leading from the front door of Mary’s house on Shipman Circle to her yard and driveway. As the result of complications due to diabetes, Mary lost her left foot, and a subsequent stroke forced her to spend most of her day in a wheelchair.

The project that benefitted Mary and her husband Grady was a first-ever partnership between Troy-Pike Habitat for Humanity (TPHFH) and the Troy-based OCAP (Organized Community Action Program). “Mary didn’t believe that she would ever get a ramp,” said Annette Shepherd, the Weatherization Manager with OCAP, “but I told her to keep the faith.”

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Grady Richards said, “We’ve been using it regularly. I was just so proud that people still care for people. It’s touching the love and care they showed for my wife.”

Prior to the installation of the ramp and because of the front steps, Grady had to take Mary out the back door to access their car. “It’s so much easier and convenient now to get Mary in and out of the house,” he said.  “We had to go around back and roll down the driveway. If it rained the yard became mushy and it was hard to push her chair.”

Randy Leutzinger, president of the local Habitat, explained how the partnership developed: “Through recent interactions with members of OCAP in Troy we became involved with one of their projects, the construction of handicap access for a family in need.”

A Touch of Kindness 

The Troy-Pike Habitat chapter strives to build a new home every 18 months, based on land availability and budget.  Leutzinger explained, “While raising funds to build the next home we often engage in smaller projects that we call “Touches of Kindness.” The Richards were incredibly grateful for the assistance they received from OCAP and Habitat.”

Troy-Pike Habitat construction coordinator, Dan Dawson said, “I want you all to know that Grady cried when he tried to thank us.” Dawson continued: “Grady said, ‘I know how hard and carefully you all worked, and I want you to know how much this means for Mary and me.’  He started to tear up again and I told him it helps our organization too and I thanked them for giving us the opportunity.”

OCAP provided the funding and members of Troy-Pike Habitat provided the skills and manpower to construct the ramp. According to Dawson, the project required about $1,000 in pressure-treated wood, 450 pounds of Quikcrete – and 22 pounds of screws.

“I’m amazed with the work that was done,” Richard said. “I was expecting they’d throw down some plywood. But every board was cut perfectly. They took their time and did it right. It’ll be there a long time.”

The project also benefited from grants provided by Troy Bank & Trust to both Habitat for Humanity and OCAP Jeff Kervin, CEO of TB&T, said the company is committed to supporting the needs of all the citizens of Troy, particularly their housing needs. “Anytime we can help assist those in need we are happy to do so,” Kervin said. “Partnering with organizations with the character of mission like Habitat and OCAP is something we are very happy to do.  As often as we can support them and the citizens of Troy, we believe we are fulfilling part of our mission.”

Housing Preservation Grant

“The Richards are a very nice couple who thought that people had forgotten about them,” said Wanda Moultry, the Executive Director of OCAP. “But we still care about people,” Moultry said, “and Habitat for Humanity still cares about people.”

The Shipman Circle house in which the Richards live was built prior to 1978, and therefore it qualified for the federally funded Housing Preservation Grant.

“It’s a conversation piece,” Grady Richards said. “Everybody who comes to the house wants to talk about the ramp. We love it and appreciate it so much.”

According to OCAP, the Housing Preservation Grant provides home repairs or rehabilitation to very low-income homeowners living in its services area with funds from the USDA Rural Development Office. The USDA funds are paired with other OCAP funds such as “Weatherization,” the “Centsable” Energy Use Program” and “Energy Counseling” to provide home improvements.

The missions of both Habitat for Humanity and OCAP dovetail and can be mutually supportative for the benefit of local communities. “You can do a lot of stuff with partnerships,” Annette Shepherd observed.

The OCAP mission statement outlines that it is a self-help agency which provides an opportunity for human dignity by providing decent housing, food, clothing, health assistance, counseling, referrals, education, and job placement.

OCAP’s goal is to seek solutions to the social and economic problems related to poverty. It is through joint efforts among the counties of Bullock, Butler, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Lowndes and Pike that it can provide services. The organization coordinates programs which help low-income, disabled, elderly and unemployed persons to meet their basic needs when they have no available means for themselves.

In a similar vein, TPHFH president Leutzinger noted that Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit ecumenical Christian ministry that seeks to provide decent and affordable housing in partnership with families in need in our community. 

“Troy-Pike Habitat is a great group of people,” Leutzinger said, “expressing their Christian values and faith in God by extending a helping hand to others.  We are currently working towards our next new home construction. 

“One of the first steps in that process is acquiring a lot to build on.  If anyone has a lot they are willing to donate or knows of a potential lot for sale, please send us an email at troypikehabitat@gmail.com.