MOUNT PLEASANT — Shirley Wallace had not seen her back yard in five years.
As a double amputee, she could power her motorized wheelchair to the edge of her driveway and peer down the side yard, but she could not navigate through the grass. In back was her tree-shaded yard and her screened-in porch, which she said is much cooler than her small, sun-baked front stoop.
“I felt like I was trapped in my house,” she told Lisa Cottingham, director of recipient services at East Cooper Meals on Wheels.
Wallace has been a recipient of the Meals on Wheels program since 2005, and her mother has been receiving meals since 1998. Part of the mission of the East Cooper service is to advocate for recipients when their needs go beyond daily nutrition. Officials with the program felt Wallace was a prime candidate for further services.
The Mount Pleasant resident needed a way to reach her back porch. By partnering with the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Benedict Church in Mount Pleasant, East Cooper Meals on Wheels arranged for a ramp to be built to Wallace’s screened-in porch.
Joe Mueller, coordinator of home repair projects for St. Vincent de Paul, said he knew that a ramp alone would not solve the problem. Wallace would still need a walkway leading to the ramp, but building the ramp was the first step.
In June, Cottingham was notified that Catholic Heart Work Camp would have 300 students in the area from all over the country to participate in mission work. She submitted the project through East Cooper Community Outreach, one of the local agencies that helped coordinate work requests for the mission trip. ECCO provided funding to purchase supplies for the projects.
During the last week in July, college students from around the country and their adult coordinators arrived at Wallace’s house. In a matter of days, they had constructed a 30-foot ramp to connect the driveway to the screened-in porch.
“I feel so blessed,” Wallace said. “The young people and I sat right here on the walkway and talked about how they are a role model for their friends. I told them to keep doing what they are doing and not to be influenced by peer pressure.”
To keep the memory of their contribution alive, the teens signed their names and the date on a paper and sealed it to a distinctive board in the walkway. Wallace said she wanted a reminder for herself and for the students. “That way we made a memory of what they did for me,” she said.