Austintown resident and Air Force veteran Kevin Boyer, 57, will be enjoying the sunshine this week, thanks to the efforts of Austintown Rotarians. They spent all day Friday building him a handicap accessible ramp at his Navarre Avenue residence.
Boyer is an Air Force veteran who served as a guidance system technician at an Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. In 1989, he was involved in a motorcycle accident that put him in a wheelchair. Today he is considered home-bound as he requires daily therapy and visits from a home nurse.
He moved to his present location in 2010 and family members threw up a quick ramp to get him into his apartment, but it wasn't adequate enough to give him freedom. The ramp went from the door at an angle to the sidewalk, but didn't have a place for him to turn and close or open his door.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Carrying the base for a new handicap ramp and deck for Austintown resident Kevin Boyer are Mal Culp, Gary Sternburg, Ram Kasuganti, Mark Cole, and Josh Crum.
"He couldn't turn his wheelchair to reach his door," said Austintown Rotarian Mark Cole. "There was no room for him to make the turn."
Boyer also had a concrete patio that he could not maneuver because of the lawn and a step that created an obstacle.
The situation came to the attention of Ron Borngesser, who oversees the Veteran's Corner at the Austintown Senior Center. Borngesser spoke with Boyer about the problem and then went to work to get him some help.
Borngesser got in touch with Cole, who is president of Austintown Rotary. Cole said when he was told of Boyer's problem, he knew it was a project worth taking on.
Cole began by putting a small work team together. He approached the TPM Company and spoke with Gary Sternburg, who volunteered his services.
"Mark called and said he was looking for someone to donate time to see this project completed," Sternburg said. "For the cause of this project, I couldn't turn it down."
On Friday, he showed up with the needed tools and Rotary secured the wood needed. The old ramp was torn off and construction began on a new ramp that would allow Boyer to exit his home on a level surface, then a slow grade allowed him access to his patio and a freedom he had longed for.
"He has a smoker, but he couldn't go outside to use it. In fact, he has never been able to get to his patio before," Cole said. "Now he can."
The new ramp also allowed Boyer that access. He can now turn his wheelchair at his door and open it himself without help.
"I'm just happy this is really happening," Boyer said. "I'm old enough that I believe in things when they happen and I am seeing this happen."
The Air Force veteran now has the ability to open and close his front door, gain access to his patio and his smoker grill, and can just go outside to enjoy the sunshine when he wants.
"This is my first Rotary project as president," Cole said, "and it is a worthwhile one."