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Wheelchair Ramp Changes a Life as Part of United Way of Bay County’s Day of Caring

Original source: mlive.com
By Rob Clark | rclark2@mlive.com 
on May 30, 2015 at 11:51 AM, updated May 30, 2015 at 11:52 AM

BAY CITY, MI -- Crystal Schalk says the efforts of a group of volunteers representing United Auto Workers Local 362 is going to significantly change the life of her mother, 53-year-old Diann Schalk.

Diann Schalk is a double amputee who has had no legs below her kneecaps since 2010. Her confinement to a wheelchair since that time has also meant being mostly confined to her home in the 500 block of State Street in Bay City.

"It takes three people to lift the wheelchair down the steps," said Crystal Schalk, 31, who lives with and cares for her mother. "I've been trying for six or seven months to get a ramp. I've been asking for help because I can't afford one."

"Sometimes it makes you feel better than them."

On Saturday, May 30, Crystal Schalk's dream came true as a team of 11 volunteers got to work building a ramp at her home just after 9 a.m. as part of the annual United Way of Bay County's Day of Caring.

"This is probably my 10th or 11th year doing this and it's always nice to see how it impacts the people you're helping," said Steve Fralick, a member of the Local 362 team. "We've had some over the years who hadn't been out of their home for years because they were in wheelchairs and couldn't get down the steps."


Fralick said the United Way of Bay County's Day of Caring is vital to the community.

"I live here and like to do things for the community," he said. "We always say, 'Labor gives back to this community.' "

Archie Gittins, the AFL-CIO community services director for the United Way of Bay County, said he's grateful for the volunteers from the UAW and knows their efforts are meaningful.

"It's the type of thing we normally don't think about and take for granted," Gittins said, referencing the life-changing importance of something like a wheelchair ramp. "We're happy to have Local 362 help out. They're the experts."

Gittins said about 50 people were signed up to volunteer as part of this year's Day of Caring.

Aside from the ramp build, volunteers were to rake and plant flowers at Linsday and Hampton elementary schools and beautify homes in the Bay City and Essexville areas.

Tera Wieland, a spokeswoman for United Way of Bay County, said the event is important because it encourages families and youth to do more volunteerism, which in turn boosts the kind of community pride that leads to increased local involvement.

"It's just getting more people involved in giving back to their community," Wieland said.

Back at the Schalk house on State Street, Harvey Schneider looked over the blueprint for the wheelchair ramp as the crew began assembling pieces that were pre-fabricated by students at the Bay-Arenac ISD Career Center. Wearing his "Live United" T-shirt, Schneider said the project has personal significance for him.

"My wife uses a wheelchair," he said. "She just can't do stairs, so I'm very sympathetic."

Inside the mauve-colored house, Crystal Schalk stood in the doorway watching pieces of the ramp be put into place.

"I'm speechless," she said. "It's wonderful. Now I can get my mom out by myself."

Meet the Team

Here are the members of the United Auto Workers Local 362 team who volunteered on Saturday, May 30, as part of the United Way of Bay County's annual Day of Caring:

Steve Fralick, Archie Gittins, Keith Glauser, Tim Iwanski, Brian Kowalski, Greyson Laczko, Mike Laczko, Kim Mead, Pedro Santos, Harvey Schneider, Ray Sowa