Rotary partners with Atlanta organization on home makeover
Written by Tracey Buckalew
Photographed by Brandy Angel
These days, as many seek advanced enlightenment and increased sensitivity to one another’s plight, it seems what we might be looking for as a community is a large dose of good, old-fashioned kindness. You know, the do-unto-others kind of altruism that warms the heart and brings extra tolerance and understanding. A kindness that builds goodwill – which just happens to be one of the tenets of our local Rotary Club of Greene and Putnam Counties.
Over a million members strong, the Rotary community works together to create positive change. Collectively, they are a powerfully passionate group whose effectiveness stems from the diversity of its members. They are your friends, your neighbors and your local leaders. Varied in life experiences and occupations, club members apply a wide database of knowledge toward finding solutions for their community’s challenges. In essence, the Rotary club seeks out opportunities to be… kind.
It was this continual, conscious effort to seek out individuals in need, which caught the attention of local Rotarian Tom Cornelia. “My wife’s nephew Peter Ranney and his wife Holly began a charity called Sunshine on a Ranney Day (SOARD), and I’ve been following it from beginning,” says Tom. Recently founded in 2012, SOARD is an Atlanta-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity that focuses on making living conditions comfortable for children with long-term illnesses. “I invited them to speak at our Rotary club meeting, and I started thinking about how to develop a partnership between Rotary and SOARD to help a family in the lake area. I knew I could put together the right people and manpower volunteers to make it work.”
Wanting to coordinate the project using locals, Cornelia enlisted the help of Debbie Mosely and Peggy Gorman of Lake Country Interiors, the sewing skills of Barbara Mazza, custom art by Cindy Cogdell, and flooring from Dalton Carpet One. Contractor Randy Daniel completed the renovation team, and thus began the search for a family in need of a blessing.
Born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalous, 14-year-old Eatonton resident, Bobby Hill, is wheelchair-bound, with a complication from one of more than 20 surgeries, leaving the formerly active student and sports fan needing 24-hour nursing care and supervision. As the Hill family became increasingly overwhelmed with their situation, they reached out to SOARD, even as Rotarian Tom Cornelia was searching for a family to assist. Mutual friends made the introductions, and the process commenced.
Initially, SOARD meets with the families to identify their specific needs. In the Hill home, it was clearly necessary to widen the passageways between rooms in order to be wheelchair accessible. Although SOARD typically renovates just one room and a bathroom, the Hill residence needed doorways to be widened and walls rebuilt, which made the project much larger than anticipated. Still, it only took two weeks to combine two rooms into a therapy suite that could accommodate Bobby’s equipment and also allow one of his parents to comfortably sleep in the same room. New flooring was installed to allow his motorized wheelchair to navigate through the residence easily, and Rooms to Go provided all of the furniture.
“We have always been so focused on Bobby that we didn’t realize we had been, literally, camping out in our own home,” explains Bobby’s mother, Kathryn. “Boxes of Bobby’s supplies…his formulas…cases and cartons of things he needs…these were everywhere. His hospital bed and equipment take up a lot of room and gives off a good bit of heat. We’d been confined to the living room since last May.” Kathryn’s voice breaks as she talks about how the lives of the family have since improved. “Bobby has always had challenges, and he takes them all in stride,” she begins. “But it makes a big difference to him, and to us, that he now has access to all of the rooms. We come into the house now and just take a deep breath and relax. We are just so, so grateful.”
“We don’t just make rooms,” explains SOARD co-founder Holly Ranney. “We make room for hope. It’s not just a physical makeover. These kids need a special place to call their own…someplace to give them renewed energy and a place to dream.” The efficient SOARD team always begins with a solid plan of action in place. “These families are stressed enough,” Holly says. “So we take care of everything and try to get things in place as soon as possible.” Kathryn agrees. “The team got in, and got out. They were super organized, and we appreciated not having to weigh in on every decision.”
Companies and professional designers partner with SOARD on these makeovers, providing products and services at little to no cost. However, renovations aren’t cheap and there are still expenses to be paid. SOARD functions 100 percent on donations from the public, and appreciates when organizations come to them with fundraising already underway – like this project-which was funded by the Rotary Club of Greene and Putnam Counties.
Last fall, a raffle was held. The Rotary Super Raffle, to be exact. The 2014 fundraiser, the first of its kind, completely funded the Hill project. This fall, the raffle will be held again, and will provide shoes for those in need, a goal worthy of the Four Way Test by which the Rotary weighs the challenges toward which they lend their assistance:
- Is it the Truth?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIP?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Research indicates that generosity and acts of kindness can boost one’s own happiness. Rotary members found anecdotal proof through this recent project – proof that spreading sunshine can be contagious. To share the happiness and give of yourself, a couple of good places to start are here: www.greeneputnamrotary.org and www.sunshineonaranneyday.com.
“We have always been so focused on Bobby that we didn’t realize we had been, literally, camping out in our own home.” — Kathryn Hill
“We don’t jus make rooms. We make room for hope.” – Holly Ranney
“We come into the house now and just take a deep breath and relax. We are just so, so grateful.” – Kathryn Hill