Fred and Ginger Stevenson were working on a church mission in Brighton when they discovered the city that would become their home. When the couple moved there in 2008, they had no idea what was in store for them in their new community. Their lives took a couple of turns, creating challenges but also building bonds.
“This is so far above what I expected or hoped for,” Fred said, the gratitude welling up in his eyes. “I would not have asked for this, if I’d known the scope.”
A Viet Nam-era veteran, Fred reflected on the Brighton Help for Homes program that stepped in to meet major, unexpected needs. Supporting seniors is the Help for Homes M.O., but in this instance the Brighton Fire Rescue team transcended the usual. The magic involved nearly 40 volunteers from Brighton Fire Rescue team and help from area businesses.
Coordinated by the Denver-based housing nonprofit Brothers Redevelopment for the City of Brighton, the annual program provides help to seniors who would not otherwise be able to afford needed home repairs. The staff at Eagle View Adult Center solicits applicants and volunteer teams. On the big day, Adult Center volunteers make lunches for all the volunteers in the field. The Brighton Legacy Foundation provides funding with support from community groups like the Brighton Fire Rescue District.
For the eight years of Brighton Help for Homes, the community has rallied together to make a difference in the lives of elderly homeowners. Normally, the work ranges from full exterior painting to gutters, fence or soffit repair to yard cleanup. Indeed, the other 16 homes that received TLC from volunteers on May 3 were more in line with the usual good works and home improvements.
Through coincidence, serendipity, divine intervention or the alignment of the stars, the Stevensons found themselves in the middle of what Ginger described as, “You know that extreme home makeover show? Well it’s like that, but just a smaller version.”
The Stevensons are in their 70s. Fred is a double amputee, having lost limbs to MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), has had four heart bypass surgeries and is diabetic. While it is unlikely to hear it from Ginger, she has a pacemaker.
The couple moved into the home to downsize, to have easier access to the VA Hospital and to generally make life easier. Since the move to Brighton, Fred has had two amputations: half of his left foot in 2010, then his right leg up to the knee in 2012.
Volunteers from Brighton Fire Rescue District have been a consistent fixture of Help for Homes, always going far beyond the essentials to improve the lives of the homeowners they help. This was true again on May 3 – in an even greater way – as the firefighters made changes that will directly affect Fred’s mobility, accessibility and safety in the home and Ginger’s ability to continue to care for her husband there.
The firefighters, who were familiar with the Stevensons from calls to the home, wanted to put laminate flooring in the home to avoid the hazards related to wheelchairs – motorized and otherwise – and carpet. Thanks to Lt. Brian Olivas, the flooring was donated by Home Depot in Brighton. With the exception of two spare bedrooms, the home went from carpet to laminate flooring in a matter of two days.
Coordinated by Lt. Gary Dawson, other members of the Brighton Fire Rescue team, including Chief Mark Bodane, were outside staining the fence that team members had power washed a couple of days earlier, repairing the sagging gate that no longer would swing open, planting rose bushes (Firefighter Red roses), and trimming trees in part to ease access to the streets for tall emergency vehicles. Grab bars in key places and a small ramp to the back porch will complete the picture.
A Remax team, led by Jennifer Sheldon and her family, tilled and prepared Ginger’s garden for planting.
Upstairs in the open master bedroom, the tub will be replaced with a roll-in shower in the coming weeks.
“Ginger brought Fred home from the rehab facility for a few hours,” Lt. Dawson shared. “She said that was the highest spirits she’s seen in him in quite some time. We truly changed their lives for the better. I couldn’t be more proud of being a part of Brighton Fire.”
Before Brighton, the Stevensons lived in Lakewood where Fred had accepted a call to be pastor of a church there. Ginger retired from the Jeffco Schools, but is still able to work one day a week for six hours. She enjoys the work. But Brighton is now home.
“This location is so exceptional,” she said. “We have Platte Valley Medical Center at our back door. The paramedics are excellent (of note: two ambulance service employees quietly showed up Saturday to help the Fire Rescue volunteers install the flooring). Shopping is close by. The neighborhood feels safe and the neighbors are close.”
Of the Brighton Fire Rescue and paramedic crews, she said “these guys are very personable. They care. You don’t find that everywhere. For a town the size of Brighton and being part of a metro area … they really care. The firefighters care for people and want to help.”
“Be sure to tell people how much we appreciate this,” Fred said.
“If nothing else, tell them ‘thank you.’ This is amazing, overwhelming,” Ginger said. “They’ve got my appreciation. Next year I hope to schedule to be on a Help for Homes site helping.”
With the help being provided through Help for Homes and the exceptional additional help of the Fire Rescue District, life will be “so much easier for Fred and for me.”
In its eight years of Brighton Help for Homes, more than 100 homeowners have been helped. “The tremendous partnership between Brothers, the Eagle View Adult Center, Legacy Foundation and volunteer teams – such as the Brighton Fire Rescue team – makes a big difference for homeowners and for the community,” said Brothers President Jeff Martinez.