Maria Velazquez used to have to open every door in her North Las Vegas home for her sons.
Brian (21) and Jonathan (14) have Duchenne muscular dystrophy and have been in wheelchairs since childhood. The progressive degeneration of their muscles and growth with age made them more dependent on their parents in their home every year.
The family was asked to lift her to shower and guide her through narrow doors and limited living room space.
But that changed on Saturday. The family came home to a more open, accessible home at no cost – the result of less than two weeks of uninterrupted work from The Good Deed Project.
Words failed Maria Velazquez as she explored the house. A once cramped hallway now opened to the family room. The small bathroom, inaccessible to her sons, was now wheelchair accessible. Doors open automatically – and a fresh coat of paint covered the exterior of the house.
“I feel lucky because I struggled with (finding help),” said Maria Velazquez, pulling herself together. “There aren’t a lot of programs here in Vegas. I’ve fought for years, mostly because there are two of them. It makes us a little easier, a little easier work. “
A 10 day crunch
The Good Deed Project began working with the Velazquezes almost a year ago, said managing director Mandy Telleria. The non-profit, nonprofit organization focuses on improving the living conditions of people in unsafe conditions or who need improvement in their health, mostly through recommendations from schools or other authorities.
“We find that a lot of families are homeowners,” says Telleria, a designer by profession. “The house is theirs, but then they don’t have the finances to keep things going. Or maybe they are buying a house because they are buying what they can afford, (but) the house is not in good shape. “
Organizers from another nonprofit, the Wheelchair Foundation, took the opportunity to help the Velazquezes who were struggling to get their sons’ electric wheelchairs into the bathroom of their 1,200-square-foot home.
Telleria thought it was a perfect addition to the nonprofit’s first renovation since the pandemic began. They “enjoy taking on the tough projects” and seeing how adding to their bathroom could change the family’s life, she said.
“The little things we can do to give the boys more personal independence and freedom is our goal in this project, and then also to take some of the stress out of the parents,” said Telleria.
After months of planning, donor identification, and voluntary in-kind donations, teams of 20 or more volunteers and contractors arrive each day to spend hours renovating. For the Velazquez house, they only had 10 days to break out a wall, rewire and reroute the lines.
The ultimate product went way beyond the family’s desire for an accessible bathroom for Brian and Jonathan. Telleria estimates the material and labor renovations will be valued at more than $ 100,000.
Bobby Panaro, who donated $ 10,000 to complete the project and complete the family’s wish list, said he saw the importance of the changes to the family’s wellbeing.
“Something as simple as tearing down a few walls, changing a few sensors, and switching doors will really make your life different,” said Panaro. “It will affect you a lot.”
The end product
The volunteers worked until 1:40 p.m. Saturday before the family arrived at 2:00 p.m. to tour the house. In addition to the new doors and bathroom retrofitting, the nonprofit also added a turf field in the backyard, voice-controlled lights via Amazon’s Alexa, murals in Brian’s and Jonathan’s bedrooms with Las Vegas Raiders Swag, and a soccer ball signed by quarterback Derek Carr, among other things. The goal of any change was to make the home accessible, functional, and comfortable, Telleria said.
It left the house like a “mini villa,” said Brian Velazquez. For Maria Velazquez, the changes made her almost speechless. She hadn’t expected any improvements in her own bathroom, let alone all of the personal details.
“There aren’t many people who help and I appreciate their work, they are like angels,” she said. “They are volunteers, they don’t have to be paid. You just do it with your heart. There aren’t a lot of people like that, so I appreciate every single little detail. I’m thankfull.”
McKenna Ross is a corps member of Report for America, a national utility that places journalists in local newsrooms. Contact her at [email protected] Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.