Success Stories: Chapter 15 – Bay Hundred Community Volunteers
Bay Hundred Community Volunteers (BHCV) has been providing home repair services for residents of Talbot County, Maryland for over 20 years. The organization’s mission is to help improve the living conditions of the residents of the Eastern Shore county and to raise public awareness of the need for adequate, safe, and affordable housing. BHCV was founded on the principle of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors”. When presented with a housing need, BHCV provides resources or partners with other community organizations to address the problem.
Over the last two decades, BHCV traditionally built wooden wheelchair ramps. The challenges with wooden wheelchair ramps are that they are time consuming to build, resource intensive, and require an arduous county permit process. When the resident no longer needs a wooden ramp, it is almost impossible to disassemble and reuse.
There is a significant, underserved need in Talbot County for wheelchair ramps. An informal survey by Kate Stinton, Talbot County Health Department Community Health Nurse Program Manager, puts the need at 24 ramps per year. BHCV currently builds 2-3 wheelchair ramps a year. They are the only non-profit organization providing this service in Talbot County. In some cases, the residents can afford to pay to have a contractor install a ramp, but in many cases, income limitations make this impossible. In those instances, often no ramp is installed and the resident is confined in the home.
With the support of the Qlarant Foundation’s gift of $15,000, BHCV has implemented the Modular Wheelchair Ramp program. Modular aluminum ramps are fully ADA compliant and are considered temporary. In most cases, they do not require a permit. They are light and easy to assemble so BHCV can do more with the available volunteers and respond more quickly to a ramp request. When the resident no longer needs the ramp, it can be disassembled and stored for future use or reconfigured immediately for another resident. Over time, as the inventory of ramp parts increases, the cost of the program will go down. It is anticipated that due to the Qlarant grant, the modular ramp program will result in 12 ramps being built in 2020 – a 300% increase and half of what the county needs.
Over the past 20 years, BHCV has completed 188 projects and invested over $233,000 in the community. The organization does anything from fixing a leaky faucet to installing a grab bar, repairing a roof, or building life-changing wheelchair ramps. The community’s appreciation of BHCV’s efforts is tremendous as evidenced by some of the accounts of the work they’ve accomplished.
From the hundreds of Talbot residents who have been helped by BHCV, the following are two examples of how this group of volunteers have changed the lives of members of their community.
Success Story #1:
A major effort for the Volunteers was to make a marginal house livable. A local gentleman did yardwork for people in the community in the mornings and was employed as a chef at a local restaurant for the dinner and evening shift. He ran into difficulty when his wife was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. He was forced to give up his night work since she was confined to a hospital bed and required care, especially in the evenings. With his wife losing her full-time job, and without his full-time employment, the couple were unable to make mortgage payments, and eventually lost their home.
They moved into a new, lower cost home but it had no insulation in either the walls or ceiling, no safe electrical system, and no interior dry wall. The floors were rough wood with half-inch cracks between the boards. Bay Hundred Community Volunteers were asked to help upgrade leaky exterior windows and finish a vinyl siding job begun years previously but never finished. Basic shelter needs to keep the home from deteriorating further. As word spread of the needs of the couple, several members of the community immediately decided to provide financial help with this project. Soon, through additional financial assistance from even more friends in the community and the work of BHCV, a sanitary and workable kitchen was completed. Drywall was completed to finish walls and ceilings. A fresh coat of paint and finished flooring for the rooms were provided. The bathroom fixtures were upgraded to provide access by the patient and a licensed electrician replaced fragmented old electrical wiring.
With these upgrades, the family was able to secure the help of a person to care for the wife and the husband was able to work again. The Bay Hundred Community Volunteers and other community members rescued these two people from a desperate situation caused solely by a health catastrophe.
Success Story #2:
The first project funded by Qlarant Foundation was a wheelchair ramp for Mrs. Barbara Jones. When Kimberly Mitchell, Community Health Nurse for the Talbot County Health Department, visited Barbara Jones for the first time on August 5th of this year she knew immediately that Mrs. Jones needed a wheelchair ramp. Mrs. Jones was on oxygen because of COPD and heart issues. She could get around the house with a walker, but needed a wheelchair to get out. Her husband, Bobby, who was himself in treatment for cancer, couldn’t get Barbara up and down the five steps to get out of the house. Barbara was missing doctor’s appointments and, on a couple of occasions, EMS had to be called to assist in getting her out of the house to go to the hospital. Her daughter was doing grocery shopping for her. Although the pandemic limited socialization, Barbara was really completely isolated.
Kimberly contacted BHCV and they visited the Jones’ the following day. They completed the design of a modular aluminum ramp, which would be 30 feet long with a 5’ X 6’ landing at the top. The BHCV approved the project and the materials were ordered by August 12th. They arrived soon after and the ramp was assembled and installed on August 28th. That’s a total project time of about three weeks! A traditional wooden ramp would have taken at least twice that amount of time and would have been a permanent structure. The modular aluminum ramp, which is ADA compliant, can be removed when Barbara no longer needs it and reused for another client.
Barbara said her new ramp is a blessing. She can get out for doctor’s appointments and has even done a little visiting. She also enjoys just sitting on the landing in the fresh air and sunshine.
The Bay Hundred Community Volunteers are just as enthusiastic about what they do as the people who receive their help. This is just a sample of what the volunteers think about their work:
- Bernie Miller: “What I get out of BHCV is a sense of companionship with my co-workers and a sense that I am using my skills to help people.”
- Dwight Henry: “It is pleasant working with the other volunteers, thinking together to plan a project, and helping our neighbors.”
- Robert Clay: “I’m a person who never believed in volunteering because it might take jobs away from other people, but volunteering for the BHCV is rewarding for me because we are helping people in need who can’t afford to pay for the work. To see the smile on their face when we finish a job is the most rewarding thing of all.”
Bill Shrieves has served as president of the BHCV since its beginning in 1999. He worked for AT&T for 32 years, mostly in sales and marketing. When he and his wife, Jean, moved to the Eastern Shore, they opened Comfort Keepers, a senior home care company. That experience with seniors and agencies working with seniors has been invaluable in the work of the BHCV. “I had time to spend and tools and asked the Bay Hundred Community Volunteers if I could help rehab my friend’s house,” said Shrieves. “I have enjoyed working with the BHCV group in other projects. Most of these projects are not technically difficult or require licensed professionals. The recipients of our help are people who might have been able to complete the projects for themselves were it not for financial or health issues, or usually both. Using my hand and machine tools and my time as a construction helper has been remarkably rewarding as one project after another is identified and completed by this remarkable group of volunteers.”
“It is amazing what difference the Bay Hundred Volunteers has made in the lives of Talbot County residents, said Dr. Molly Burgoyne-Brian, Chair of the Qlarant Foundation Board of Directors. Their efforts eliminate barriers to obtaining medical care for residents with functional disabilities as well as reduce isolation and loneliness. We are pleased to be a partner in these efforts.”