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Corunna man’s plight inspires a community

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Peter Bakker just couldn’t get visions of Jamie Stewart’s house out of his mind.

The Watford builder had just returned from an inspection of the structural damage in the Corunna man’s home. He could see it was completely inadequate for the 43-year-old quadriplegic living on his own.

“I was really bothered by it,” says Bakker who owns Bakker Design & Build. “It’s a wartime house that wasn’t built for this climate. Both the roof and foundation are caving in.

“It’s also not accessible at all. It wasn’t built for a heavy wheelchair like his. Water damage created a mould problem in the house and all the floors and drywall have to be replaced. ”

Bakker estimated repairs and upgrades to the home would cost at least $90,000.

“We’d spend more on repairing and fixing than on building a new house,” he said.

So he worked on a blueprint of what a new, open-concept house for Stewart could look like.

“It’s not an extravagant house, only 960-square-feet, but it’s what he needs,” Bakker said.

He is willing to donate his expertise and labour.  And if tradespeople can be convinced to pitch in and materials can be purchased at a discount, Bakker believes a new house can be built for Stewart for $80,000.

“If we can get more, we can buy him a new lift in his bedroom and create a fund for future home maintenance.”

Stewart’s sister, Terri Neely, set up a crowdfunding website in mid-January and $11,500 has already been raised. Neely also generated $1,200 from a liquor and beer bottle drive.

Local tradespeople like the boilermakers and pipefitters are pitching in as well. So many people want to be involved that Bakker and Neely are forming a committee to co-ordinate the construction.

“It blows my mind that all these people want to help,” said Stewart, who was a boilermaker before he snapped his neck in a diving accident at the age of 26.

“I’ve always been independent. It’s just how I’m wired, but I was really losing sleep wondering how I was going to make these repairs to my house.”

For the past 18 years he’s depended on a small pension and doesn’t qualify for government programs to help him with home maintenance.

“It was such a stressful thing for so long,” said Stewart. “It’s like it’s been lifted from my shoulders. I’m going to be set for life with a new home that will be perfect for me.”

“None of this would have happened without Terri and Pete. They’ve just got good hearts,” he said.

A community fundraiser is planned for June 4 at the Corunna Legion with live entertainment, a silent auction and raffles.

It’s hoped construction can start in late July once Stewart’s current house is demolished.

“He’s a great guy,” Bakker said. “We’ve had an overwhelming response so far.”

Donating is possible at Raise the Roof for Stewy, or by emailing [email protected].

Any building questions can be directed to Bakker at [email protected]

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