When a group of Good Samaritans from the Greater Chicagoland Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) learned about an Elk Grove Village family in need, they stepped up to the plate and did what they do best—in this case, build a bigger, better, wheelchair-friendly bathroom. Their charitable efforts not only made life easier for Mark and Joan Evans and their four special needs children, but it earned the Chicago Chapter a community service achievement award from NARI.
The Evans—parents of triplets with varying degrees of cerebral palsy and a fourth child who is autistic—live in a small three-bedroom ranch, built in 1960, with narrow hallways and doorways and two cramped bathrooms. Maneuvering around their home is difficult enough with five occupants, but with their daughter Meredith in a wheelchair, getting from room to room was particularly challenging.
While the couple were able to convert their sun porch into a bedroom for Meredith and improve accessibility for her, lifting Meredith in and out of her wheelchair to use the nearby 4’ x 10’ bathroom was proving to be physically demanding. Complicating matters was the fact that Mark had lost his job two years ago and was forced to switch careers, adding financial uncertainty to the family’s struggles.
But relief was on its way, in the form of a cadre of caring contractors and suppliers who, upon hearing about the Evans’ plight, volunteered their time, services and materials to transform their bath into a wheelchair amenable, kid-proof, extra-large and thoroughly modern one. Heading the affair was Mike Pudlik, president of St. Charles-based Legacy Design and Construction, Inc., who offered to serve as project manager—which involved rounding up the needed unpaid manpower, soliciting vendors to donate products and materials and supervising all phases of renovation. In the end, Pudlik was able to get 18 different companies to contribute to the job.
“My goal was for us to treat this family as if they were a regular client by giving them excellent service and top-quality craftsmanship and keeping their project moving along at an efficient, productive pace,” Pudlik said. “We wanted to use our skills and resources to help make a difference in the lives of this family, and that meant pulling together.”
The team of more than a dozen NARI Chicago member volunteers—as well as a few non-member tradespeople who donated their help to the cause—began the job by knocking out the far bathroom wall into an unused area of the kitchen, essentially doubling the bath’s size from 40 to 80 square feet. They roughed in new heating ducts and plumbing and installed insulation in the crawlspace below. Next, they replaced the floor joists and lowered the bathroom floor to be level with the adjacent rooms.
The rough carpentry phase commenced, and before long the entire bathroom was waterproofed. In place of the tub they removed, the NARI Chicago crew designed a larger shower with a wide opening, level floor, safety grab bars, user-friendly water controls and multiple anti-scald shower heads. Attractive ceramic tile was laid, a wheelchair-amenable toilet was put in and an accessible sink with an automatic faucet for convenient hand-washing was implemented. Ample light fixtures, an extra floor drain outside the shower, wide, easy-slide wooden pocket doors and an exhaust fan were also added.
But the group’s philanthropy didn’t end there. In Meredith’s bedroom they closed off an unused opening and installed heating ductwork to ensure a comfortable temperature. They replaced a non-working toilet in the second bathroom. NARI Chicago member Bob Manion, who is also a member of the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA), painted the bathroom and enlisted the help of other PDCA members to prep and paint all the walls in the home. Additionally, with the help of a church, the PDCA is trying to secure a new wheelchair-accessible van to replace the family’s 11-year-old rundown model.
“The Evans are overwhelmed with joy by the finished project,” said Pudlik, whose squad completed the work over six weeks earlier this year. “We appreciated how welcoming, accommodating and friendly they were to our crew, especially considering how many people were coming and going in and out of that house to try to get it done in a timely fashion. It couldn’t have gone better. We’re all extremely proud of the end result.”
NARI Chicago and its team led by Pudlik were honored with a NARI Achievement Award, Local Chapter Community Project, bestowed by NARI national to one worthy chapter a year. In earning the honor, NARI Chicago bested five other chapters competing for the same prize. Ron Cowgill, past president of Des Plaines-headquartered NARI Chicago, also presented Pudlik with a Distinguished Service Award for his efforts and sacrifices.
“I’m thrilled that our members were recognized for the countless hours of commitment they devoted to this project,” said Mimi Altman, executive director of NARI Chicago. “Everything involved—from the labor to the materials—was completely donated, which demonstrates that there are remodelers out there who have a heart and want to give back to their community.”