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Community raising the roof for Stewy

Published on

Cathy Dobson

An outpouring of generosity that just won’t stop is keeping the demolition and rebuild of Jamie Stewart’s home on schedule.

His deteriorating home was torn down Friday and a new foundation is going in this week.

“Every two minutes it seems someone is coming forward to donate their time and give us materials,” said a visibly moved Pete Bakker. He is the contractor from Watford taking the lead on the community effort to provide Stewart with a new home in Corunna.

“People don’t realize the struggles Jamie goes through every day. They don’t know his story, but when they hear it, they want to get involved,” said Bakker.

Stewart, 43, became a quadriplegic when he dove into a pool 18 years ago and snapped his neck. He has lived independently in a wartime house the past 15 years and coped as well as he could despite poor wheelchair access and few amenities to make life easier.

The house on Beckwith was a constant source of headaches with minimal insulation, water leaks and mould.

This winter, when Stewart learned the foundation is damaged, Bakker took a look at it and decided repairs would be more costly than a complete rebuild.

“I only met him once, and he went home and did the design for a new house,” said Stewart.

Bakker began voluntarily working with Stewart’s sister, Terri Neely, and friends Mark and Stephanie McCabe and Joella Maitland, to co-ordinate the project.

Raise The Roof for Stewy got underway with the demolition of a home at 223 Beckwith Street owned by Jamie Stewart. A new wheelchair access home will be built on the site by a small army of volunteers.
Terri Neely
Jamie Stewart
Jamie Stewart


Local trades including the boilermakers, who Stewart worked with prior to his accident, jumped onboard.

On Friday, Bakker climbed into an excavator, honked the horn and began knocking down the old house.

A crowd of 50 friends and family cheered from the road.

“This is unbelievable,” said Stewart.  “I don’t know what to say. So many people are helping me. This really makes me feel loved and appreciated.”

Fundraisers leading up to the demolition attracted hundreds of supporters and many friends who Stewart hadn’t seen in years.

“This feeling of being overwhelmed is about the generosity, but it’s also about how many relationships have been rekindled for Jamie,” said his sister, Terri Neely.

“It’s been a life-changing event.”

A party at the Corunna Legion was attended by more than 300 people and raised $18,000. Most of the $80,000 needed to build the house has been raised or donated in kind by tradespeople. Donations are still being sought for amenities to assist Stewart inside the new home.

A specially equipped bed and lift costs more than $3,000 and appliances Stewart can easily access are still needed.

“We want to build him a house that will improve his life and give him more independence,” said Neely.

Stewart will watch his house go up over the next six to eight weeks from his buddy’s house next door. Neighbour and friend Wayne MacDonald adapted his own home to accommodate Stewart until the new place is ready.

Like so many in the community who are helping, MacDonald said he’s happy to be part of it.

“Anything he needs,” said MacDonald.  “Nothing is too much to ask.”

Donations to “Raise the Roof 4 Stewy” can be mailed to Jamie Stewart, P.O. Box #1535, Corunna, or contact [email protected] for more information.

Contractor Pete Bakker smiles from the backhoe as he prepares to demolish Jamie Stewart's old home at 223 Beckwith St. in Corunna. Glenn Ogilvie
Contractor Pete Bakker smiles from the backhoe as he prepares to demolish Jamie Stewart’s old home at 223 Beckwith St. in Corunna.
Glenn Ogilvie

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