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Volunteers hammer to help neighbors

HEART volunteers Bob Dalton (left), Steve Scoles (center) and Mike Ankenny (left) work to make a wheelchair ramp safe for a couple of their fellow South Whidbey community members.  - Breeana Laughlin
HEART volunteers Bob Dalton (left), Steve Scoles (center) and Mike Ankenny (left) work to make a wheelchair ramp safe for a couple of their fellow South Whidbey community members.
— image credit: Breeana Laughlin

A steep and slippery wheelchair ramp is now safe and properly sloped thanks to a small group of South Whidbey volunteers.

Hearts and Hammers workers redesigned and reconstructed the wheelchair ramp at a home on Maxwelton Road last week.

“The work is just perfect. I’ve never seen such a well-constructed ramp before,” said homeowner Suzanne Hackinen. “I am just overwhelmed with happiness.”

The new ramp is a welcome change for both Hackinen and her husband, who has a heart condition.

The old ramp was very steep, and it wasn’t safe for the couple to go in and out of their home.

“Now it’s a proper slope for a wheelchair and a lot safer,” said Steve Scoles, a Hearts and Hammers board member.

The latest group of four Hearts and Hammers volunteers extended the ramp by building a new addition and incorporating the old ramp onto the new section. The workers also added traction and handrails to the structure.

Hearts and Hammers is a South Whidbey volunteer program that builds camaraderie amongst community members by having them participate in projects just like this one.

Volunteers lend their neighbors a helping hand by repairing the homes for people throughout South Whidbey who are physically or financially unable to do so alone.

Most of these projects are completed each year in May, when the Hearts and Hammers program hosts an expansive workday. In past years, the event has attracted about 400 volunteers to work on 35 to 40 houses throughout the area.

But sometimes home-repair situations arise that need attention right away.

“During the year we sometimes get projects that just can’t wait until May,” Scoles said. “So I pull together a team and we do it.”

Scoles is the board member in charge of Hearts and Hammers projects that take place year-round.

They are called HEART, or Home Emergency Action Repair Team.

HEART projects help islanders dealing with situations that involve immediate health or safety concerns, such as electrical failure and leaking roofs.

“We’ll find a way to help these folks out,” Scoles said.

The focus of HEART is to do small jobs that can be completed in about a day by a few volunteers.

HEART volunteers are people who have worked at the May Hearts and Hammers Day and have expressed a willingness to volunteer during other times of the year, too.

The reason for working on Hearts and Hammers projects is simple for many of these volunteers.

“It needs to be done,” said John Goertzel, a worker at the latest HEART project.

The volunteers were glad to be able to lend the helping hand.

“Our mission in Hearts and Hammers is to do projects like this,” Scoles said. “We’re happy to help out the community, and this is one of the things we can do.”

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