Tommy Melson guides his wheelchair from the kitchen table and moves down the hallway, makes a complete turnaround, goes into the utility room, then returns to the kitchen.
That short trip is a monumental change for Melson and is just one example of how his life has been impacted by community members who helped build his family a new house.
“I have my life back ,” Melson said.
Tommy and April moved into their new home on Nov. 8. The house is a labor of love that started with local businessman and retired educator Chester Taylor (and was featured in the Aug. 16 Community Voice).
After working 30 years in the commercial roofing business, Tommy retired several years ago after a spinal cord injury. When complications from diabetes resulted in the loss of his foot, he found himself with almost no mobility because they owned a house that needed repair and offered limited accessibility.
“I didn’t know I was sad until I got in here,” Tommy said as he sat at the dining room table in his now house. “My body was wasting away in that bed. I’m just now getting my muscles back to where I can do things.”
The new house is designed to allow wheelchair accessibility and Tommy is making full use of the opportunity.
“I can go anywhere in the house I want to,” he said. “I can circle this table; I can go back through there (pointing down the hallway); I can get to the refrigerator if the kids want milk.”
Tommy said when they first moved in, “I cried for three days – just because of the pure blessings.”
He becomes emotional as he talks about the shower in his and April’s bedroom, which he can access by himself.
“Getting a sponge bath is alright but It’s not the same as taking a shower by yourself,” Tommy said. “The dignity that I lost, it’s all back.”
Tommy and April share lighthearted banter as he says she now gives him a honey-do list.
April said she still has unpacking to do, but she was able to host a family Thanksgiving dinner just two weeks after moving into the house. She works full time at Lake Cumberland Community Action.
One of the most important changes that came from moving into the new house are the family meals around the kitchen table.
“We always eat at the dinner table. I remember when I was growing up, you ate at the dinner table. We connect at the dinner table. When we come to the dinner table (April) makes sure we have a conversation. She is a blessing,” Tommy said.
The family is quick to express their appreciation for all the help that went into building the house.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I don’t know half the people on this list,” Tommy said about a list of donors to the project. “I am just in awe.”
A Community of Giving
Just as Tommy talks about his freedom to move around as he gives a tour of the house, Taylor also walks through the house with a story to share. He points from room to room and tells who donated what materials or labor to get the work done. From a new refrigerator to a heat and air system, local churches, individuals and businesses contributed to the cause.
“This is the easiest building project that I have ever done,” Taylor said, “because of how great the people were.”
Bedroom furniture was given as gifts for sons Jayden and Wyatt, who each enjoy their own room. Kitchen cabinets were donated, people donated drywall and painting work, and the list goes on and on. Then there is the list of people who donated money toward the purchase of supplies. The old house that was next door is even gone now, with demolition also donated.
“I told April and Tommy it would take a year,” Taylor said. “In 105 days, they moved in…because of the good Lord above and because of the great people in the community, it was done in 105 days.”