For almost 30 years, project: HOMES has been improving lives by improving homes. That’s their mission—it’s what they do. That sounds a lot like John Randolph Foundation’s mission, too—“Healthy Communities, Bright Futures.” So it’s no big surprise that the John Randolph Foundation has been supporting project: HOMES with grant funding for 21 years to improve the health and well-being of the folks in our area. You see, there’s an ever-growing need to improve the accessibility, safety and energy efficiency of existing houses especially for low-income individuals, the elderly and other families in the Tri-Cities.
Another welcoming ramp built by the talented volunteers of project: HOMES.
I wanted to learn more about project: HOMES, so I began my journey by meeting recently with Brad Burnham, Director of Volunteer Services, who told me how their home access ramp program works. “To build these ramps, we work closely with individual volunteers and lots of partners, like various corporations, civic groups, faith-based groups, and even fraternities. For example, when we work with a corporation, we usually meet in the parking lot of their business and quickly assemble 5-foot sections of ramp components. With the help of volunteers from the company working in one-hour shifts, we can efficiently utilize their volunteer employees’ time and energy. From there, we store the ramp components in enclosed trailers ready for delivery to clients’ homes.” I asked him, “Who are some of your local clients? Can I meet one of them?” “Sure! We’ve built about 35 ramps in the Tri-Cities this year alone—I’ll set up a client meeting!”
The next part of my journey …
A week later, I’m walking towards a Prince George County home with a bright new project: HOMES ramp leading to the front door. Waiting for me are Kim and Leon Tardie. They’re the grandparents of 11-year-old Isaiah who they legally adopted when he was five. Isaiah was born 16 weeks premature and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, autism, and about 20 additional mentally and physically challenging conditions. His mother, who also had health challenges at that time, simply couldn’t provide the high level of specialized care Isaiah needed. “So we became his grandparents-parents and he’s our grandson-son”, Kim says laughingly. We take a seat inside their home so I can hear more about how project: HOMES came into their lives. “We used to live in a nearby mobile home community and our neighbor had a wonderful ramp installed by project: HOMES. We got their contact number from our neighbor and reached out to them. After we qualified and they did a sight inspection, we scheduled an installation date.” Just then Leon speaks up, “It was pretty amazing, like an army descended on our house! Everyone worked so well together and they were very well organized. Everyone was so kind. In a half-day the whole thing was done!” Kim adds, “And they left us a ton of food! Working with them has been such a blessing.”
I ask Leon what things were like before the ramp. “The old steps were weak and so narrow. I’ve had brain surgery and some of my medications make me dizzy. Isaiah and both of us [Kim and Leon] had a lot of trouble with those narrow steps; we had to turn sideways to get our whole foot on the step or else we would—and did—easily slip or stumble.” Kim adds, “Isaiah also has carnitine deficiency which leaves him with poor muscle tone, weakness and fatigue. Those steps were really hard for him. He’s really tickled with his new ramp!”
(L-R) Leon, Kim and Isaiah enjoying the newly installed project: HOMES ramp.
Then I asked the obvious question, “So where’s Isaiah now?” “Oh, he’s at school. He attends the Lead Center in Hopewell. They help him so much with his challenges.” At that point it’s clear to me I want to meet this youngster and hear his side of the story. “He’s highly vocal, he’ll talk your ear off!”, says Kim. So we arrange a follow-up visit.
Two weeks later: The “next-next” part of my journey …
Kim is right—Isaiah really is an amazing 11 year old! Walking in, I say “Hi” to Isaiah and he immediately starts asking me who’s my favorite cartoon character, Lilo or Stitch? I say, “Well, probably Stitch” and he begins to tell me the entire storyline of the cartoon series. I’m amazed by his attention to detail and plot. “Wow, you really know a lot about that cartoon series!”, I exclaim. “He’s like that,” his mom Mattie tells me. “He can tell you about all of the characters and their siblings—and even the minor characters. It’s amazing”. Mattie recently moved to Virginia from Vermont with her husband John. She adds, “These days we all work together as a loving family to take care of Isaiah.” “So how do you like your new ramp?”, I ask Isaiah. “I love it!”, he exclaims.
From my conversation with his family, I learn that Leon helps Isaiah with his daily activities like meals, medications, clothing and personal care. He also takes him to medical appointments—sometimes two or three appointments in a day. Kim works outside the home while tirelessly advocating for Isaiah to make sure he gets the care and assistance he so dearly needs. That’s how she connected with project: HOMES. “By the grace of God, we somehow get everything done,” says Leon. “Yes, Isaiah definitely keeps us on our toes and on our knees,” an obvious reference to prayer, adds Kim.
A simple plaque with a few words that mean so much to the Tardie family.
And that’s when I see it—the plaque hanging on the wall in Leon and Kim’s home. It says simply, “Blessed Beyond Measure.” And the thought hits me—the difficulties, the challenges and the setbacks encountered in the care and nurturing of Isaiah aren’t a bunch of problems—they’re blessings. They’re this family’s pathway to teamwork, acceptance, humility, inspiration, gratitude and joy—all blessings indeed! But most of all, they’re a pathway to love.
With the help of project: HOMES, the John Randolph Foundation and his devoted family, Isaiah is clearly blessed—and loved—beyond measure.
For more information or to volunteer: call 804.233.2827 or visit www.projecthomes.org
This post was written by Ken Newman