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Community Unites to Install Elevator for Injured Soldier

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Installation crew

Elevator-industry members come together to install a home elevator for a U.S. veteran.

In 2006, Staff Sergeant Dan Barnes was on his second tour of duty in Iraq with the 5th Engineer Battalion from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The battalion was tasked with route clearance, which involved clearing roads of potential dangers. On September 4, 2006, while on a night mission, Barnes’ mine-protected vehicle stopped to examine a suspicious object in the road. While idling, the vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, impacting the side of the truck where Barnes was sitting. As a result, he sustained serious injuries to his lower limbs.   

Despite receiving expert medical care, Barnes lost both legs. After 15 months of intense physical therapy, he returned home to Waynesville, Missouri, where he currently resides with his wife, Gretchen, and four sons (Toby, Jacob, Henry and Gavin). The family lives in a two-story home, with their oldest son’s bedroom downstairs. The only way Barnes could get downstairs was to exit the home, travel down the hill around the house and through the basement doors in the back. To get upstairs, Barnes traveled the same path, only uphill.

During the last 10 months, Rick Morris, CHA director of Operations for Fort Wood Hotels by Ehrhardt Properties, had been in contact with the Barnes family regarding the installation of a home elevator. The family had applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fund the project, but after two years in the system, the VA denied their claim, stating that funding for such projects was no longer available.  

Randy Collins, a maintenance technician for KONE and U.S. Army veteran, was adamant about volunteering his time to help the Barnes family. Also a member of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC), the proud veteran first had to obtain permission from KONE and IUEC to perform any volunteer work. He spoke with Lenny Morris, his union representative, who was interested in helping Collins and the family, though any action would require IUEC board approval. In the meantime, while discussions with KONE and IUEC continued, representatives of the Wounded Warrior Fund (the goal of which is to financially assist soldiers and their families in times of need) received approval to spend up to US$30,000 to ensure the project’s completion.

The response from IUEC and KONE was incredible, with the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund  (EIWPF) agreeing to purchase the elevator and provide a team of volunteers for installation. Having received project funding and support, Phase One was complete. As winter set in and the team awaited the elevator’s construction, work continued, ensuring that plans were correctly drawn, while the Barnes family kept faith that the project would be completed.

Work began on April 2, continuing on weekends to complete the project. Teams of volunteers came from all across Missouri – Springfield, Kansas City, Columbia and Rolla. The outpour of community support was amazing. Lowe’s Home Improvement in Saint Robert, Missouri, and Meeks Lumber provided building supplies at or below cost.

The first weekend of work saw the digging of the elevator pit. IUEC sent four members (Morris, Paul Bartlett, Doug Price and Collins) to assist with the dig. Ten hours later, the pit was ready for concrete. The following Tuesday, IUEC coordinated with the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local Union 518 from Kansas City to pour the concrete. Two weekends later, it was time to construct the elevator-shaft walls. The group wanted the walls to blend with the house and not appear to be an afterthought.

Jeff Davis of 24/7 Homes and an Association of the U.S. Army corporate member was the expert for the construction phase. In addition, the IUEC team had a loyal group of warriors who volunteered yet another weekend to assist with the project. First Sergeant Jerry Bumpus, a Vietnam veteran, volunteered his expertise in building. Three weekends later, the elevator shaft was installed. When it was time to put the roof and siding on, a group of soldiers from the 94th Engineer Battalion volunteered their time to assist and help their fellow battle buddy.

After 10 months of coordinating, funding, digging and building, the project was completed in August. Sergeant Barnes, a deserving warrior, now has a beautiful home elevator.

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