Jesus and his family were living in a two-bedroom house in Aurora. Jesus has cerebral palsy, and at 15 years old, he was getting too big for his family to help him use the home’s only bathroom.
The family reached out to the Home Builders Foundation for help. HBF is a Denver-based nonprofit that helps people with disabilities make essential modifications so they can stay in their homes and regain their independence. The foundation works with trade partners to donate materials, time and expertise, and has completed nearly 1,500 projects since it was established in 1993. In 2017, the foundation finished 94 projects for recipients, according to Liz Williams, community development director for HBF.
Last spring, HBF began work with one of its partners, Lennar, to build an ADA-accessible bedroom and bathroom for Jesus.
That’s not what happened, though.
“It ended up being a 400-square-foot addition with his own bedroom and bathroom with a beautiful roll-in shower. Everything was ADA-compliant for him,”
Ashley Reutter, director of purchasing for Lennar, told Colorado Builder.
In building the addition, Lennar and its team of builder partners had to take down a kitchen wall — so they went ahead and updated the kitchen with new appliances, cabinets and countertops. They also replaced windows and the roof to tie in the addition with the rest of the house, Reutter said.
The team removed all the carpet in the house and replaced it with hardwood to make it easier for Jesus to get around in his wheelchair.
Finally, they built a new 160-square-foot deck and a ramp into the backyard.
“All they had really wanted was a window for him to look out, but we said, ‘Well, why don’t we just build you a deck and ramp since we’re already here disrupting your lives?’” Reutter said.
Lennar’s trade partners donated all the materials and labor that went into the various projects. About 100 people contributed their time to the project, Reutter said.
A project this expansive was, unsurprisingly, riddled with challenges. First was securing the permit, which Reutter said took about a month longer than expected thanks to some of the changes in the initial plan.
“The city didn’t like the way an exterior wall lined up … with the existing home,” she said. “You have to have a certain distance between the home and the street. With the new addition, you have to follow the new building codes, so everything had to shift over a little bit.”
Another delightful setback was when on the first day of framing, the main sewer line broke. “That was spewing lovely sewage into the new crawlspace we had poured,” Reutter said.
Despite the setbacks, Lennar was committed to the project. The company has a “really strong culture of giving back to the community,” Reutter said. “The great thing about the HBF and us … is we have all the skills to help them accomplish what they’re trying to get done.”
She continued, “It’s nice to get the trade partners involved, too, because a lot of them don’t get to see the impact that they have on the community.”
Danielle Andrus was previously the managing editor for Colorado Builder, and is currently Editor for the Journal of Financial Planning.