The Des Plaines Community Foundation held a “Thank You” pizza appreciation party for the Maine West Building Trade students Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at The Homestead House in Des Plaines.
The Homestead House is the headquarters for the Home Maintenance Class students at Maine West High School. It is an old farm house that has been converted through the efforts of the building Trade students for life skills classes.
Each of the 27 students at the appreciation party were awarded a $10 gift card for either Panda Express or Portillo’s by Rosemary Argus, executive director of the Des Plaines Community Foundation.
Argus made a point of thanking each of the students personally by shaking their hand and letting them know the work they do frees disables and elderly people who are trapped in wheelchairs in their homes.
“The wheelchair ramps allow folks to take a walk, go to the park or even go out for ice cream,” said Argus. “The Building Trades students have touched the lives of residents, young and old, with various challenges.
“Utilizing their construction skills to build ramps, decks, picnic tables, or to paint houses or even during the winter help shovel snow for those with various challenges, they have come to the aid of many residents that needed assistance.”
Since 2006, the Building Trades program at Maine West High School has built about 26 ramps and decks to assist the elderly and disabled residents in the community, said Paul Bartholomae, the 30-year veteran instructor. Permits are pulled and 12 to 15 of the special education students work on it and then the ramp is inspected by the city.
It can take anywhere from six weeks to three months to build a ramp, depending on the size. The city’s department of Health and Human Services forwards requests for wheelchair ramps to Rosemary Argus and the Des Plaines Community Foundation, which relays them to Bartholomae.
“We just completed our 26th ramp during final week at Maine West,” said Bartholomae. “We got a request to take one ramp out and put another one in. So the students actually engineered a cart to roll the dismantled ramp about two blocks to install it on another home. They took it apart in four pieces and one piece was pretty heavy-but they did it.
“The ramps are the most important thing we do for the Des Plaines residents in need,” he said. “It becomes a problem when the elderly or disabled can’t get out of their homes to get to the doctor.”
The Des Plaines Community Foundation buys the supplies, like tools and wood, while the students provide the labor during 45-minute class periods. The program is great for students who are eager to learn construction skills and helping the community is an added boost.
“What makes the program so successful is the cooperation among students,” he said.
“They divvy up tasks and each brings different strengths to the table. And, they work—just like a real-life crew. They have even expanded to building sheds and minor cabinetry. It is really a hands-on experience for some of these students and can turn into a future career.”
Bartholomae said he would like to see more students volunteer at the Homestead, like maybe someone in an Applied Technology class from Maine West.
This is just one of the many programs for which The Des Plaines Community Foundation raises funds. The Foundation’s intent is to identify, link and mobilize assets to support the service programs of the Des Plaines Healthy Community Partnership Programs whose activities improve the lives of those that live and work in Des Plaines.
Some of the programs include: Neighbors Helping Neighbors Program Committee; Healthy Community/Healthy Youth Program Committee; Intergenerational Program Committee, and Seasons of Service Program Committee.
The Foundation has no paid employees and is 100-percent volunteer. Foundation is a 501c3 organization and funds are obtained from individuals, businesses, and corporate tax-deductable contributions as well as from other foundations. For more information on the Des Plaines Community Foundation or to donate, call Rosemary Argus at 847-297-4932.