Special To The Dispatch
SALISBURY — The Chesapeake Housing Mission has a goal of “making the homes of those less fortunate more livable and secure.”
The mission recently had its 200th build — a wheelchair ramp for a local man.
“You will never meet someone with such a devastating injury with such a positive attitude on life,” said Don Taylor, executive director of CHM.
The nonprofit Christian mission gathers donations and volunteers to make vital home repairs for low-income families in the Chesapeake region. A wheelchair ramp was the focus of this milestone build; volunteers were members of the Salisbury City Police Department.
“In policing today, it’s all about making sure the people we serve are connected and supported in any way,” said Salisbury City Police Chief Barbara Duncan, working alongside officers from her department. “We are honored to be involved with this project. These are the things that matter most.”
The group was founded “by a few of us who had been to Appalachia to repair homes. We had been taking teens into the mountains for 20 years,” Taylor said. “But people here kept saying ‘There’s need here on the Shore.’ ”
A build begins with a referral from one of the partner agencies, which include MAC Inc., the Area Agency on Aging; Bay Area Center for Independent Living, the four Lower Shore county health departments and the Worcester County Commission on Aging. BACIL served as the partner for this 200th project.
The next steps are soliciting donations, gathering volunteers and filing the required paperwork.
Key anchor donors include the United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore, Richard A. Henson and Hazel family foundations, in addition to support from the Choptank Trust Foundation, the John B. Parsons Foundation, Arthur W. Perdue Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore.
“Our United Way is proud of Chesapeake Housing Mission’s recent milestone, and blessed to have this partnership such a wonderful organization,” said Kathleen Momme executive director of the United Way of the Lower Shore. “Because of their work, our neighbors with disabilities and their caretakers no longer need to struggle with the everyday challenges of leaving their homes.”
Key volunteer groups since the beginning include the Salisbury and Wicomico, Rotary Clubs, Asbury and Trinity Appalachia groups and Antioch United Methodist Church.
Initially, projects were mostly general home repairs, such as floors and handrails, but “we did not know the demand for ramps was so huge,” Taylor said. “The Eastern Shore with its health issues and elderly population and rural nature, wheelchair ramps are now 90 percent of what we do.”
“Ramps are secondary here. Taking a day to show a person in need that you care is more important than building a ramp,” Taylor said. “The fact that you care, that you gave up time to be with another human, is powerful.”
At the first meeting with CHM reps, the build recipient is given a simple cross crafted from two nails.
“We do that to encourage hope and to show we care,” Taylor said. A build, from first meeting to project completion, can take a couple months, he explained.
“We tell them when they are in doubt and feel discouraged, to grab that nail cross and know one thing: We don’t know when, but we will be coming to help,” Taylor said.
For more information, visit www.ChesapeakeHousingMission.org or call 410-546-4534.