Marcus Laster and Nicole Paragon have four children including 6-year-old son Adrian, nicknamed “Bubba,” who suffers from cerebral palsy.
Before Monday, they struggled to get Bubba and his wheelchair down the steps of their porch.
“In order to get him in and out for the bus, I would have to push his wheelchair down a few steps and out my bedroom door, which was really an inconvenience,” Nicole told the Times News Thursday. “I would usually just carry him to and from the car when I would leave to go somewhere, which was pretty hard considering he weighs 55 pounds. I almost can’t carry him anymore.”
Nicole participated in the Of One Accord free dental clinic in March in Rogersville, where she met Operation Good Neighbor (OGN) director Mickey Wilcox.
OGN recruits, organizes and coordinates local volunteers and outside mission teams to perform home repairs and improvements for the needy in Hawkins County.
“Just in the course of our conversation, she mentioned how she had a permanently handicapped son in a wheelchair, and that they would have to hand him down off the steps on their front porch and then carry him out to the car,” Wilcox told the Times News Thursday. “I asked, ‘Don’t you have a ramp?’ She said, ‘No, we want to get one, but we just don’t have the money for it right now.’ ”
Wilcox then suggested that Nicole fill out an OGB home repair application. Although Laster works full time at a plant in Phipps Bend, with four children the couple still met the economic guidelines to be eligible for OGN assistance.
As luck would have it, a week later the ministry received a grant from the U.S. Bank Foundation which is specifically intended to benefit families with small children.
There was also a small amount of funding remaining from an Americans Helping Americans grant, and Wilcox was able to combine the two and purchase the materials for Bubba’s ramp.
“Then I contacted the Surgoinsville First United Methodist Church and asked them if they’d like to do a local project,” Wilcox said. “They said, ‘We’d love to,’ and they jumped right on it. Surgoinsville FUMC has been a partner with Of One Accord ministry for several years, helping with our mission teams and now becoming increasingly more involved.”
On Monday morning, Surgoinsville FUMC volunteers James Bohem, Charlie Henige, and Chuck Anderson arrived at the residence and were able to complete the ramp in one day.
According to Nicole, Adrian said it’s “Bubba approved.”
“I was pretty shocked at how fast they got the ramp built,” Nicole said. “They worked from about 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day and got it done in one day. It was amazing. They worked very hard on it.
“This ramp means so much to me and my family. There is no words to truly describe how blessed I feel for these guys and Of One Accord ministry and those who helped financially. It makes my life tremendously easier by making transitions to and from the school bus and to and from my vehicle smoother and easier. I’m so thankful I no longer have to struggle with carrying him and can use the ramp daily.”
OGN currently has 18 non-local mission teams scheduled to come into Hawkins County this summer to participate on a variety of projects including six major home improvements.
OGN officials are hoping to increase the number of projects, but they’re waiting for some outside mission teams to finalize their commitment.
One project involves a new kitchen and living room floor for an elderly man in a wheelchair whose floor is collapsing. If there’s time, volunteers will also repair or replace his ramp, which is also dilapidated.
There are also roofing projects for two elderly widows and a project to repair roof damage on the home of a disabled single mother.
Of One Accord and OGN are always looking for more volunteers and/or financial contributions. Anyone who would like to help is encouraged to call the ministry at (423) 921-8044.