Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Greenport descended on Harry Lewis’ house this weekend armed with tools and determination to make the structure handicapped accessible. That’s critical for the 40-year old who is confined to a wheelchair, having been born with cerebral palsy.
Efforts to help convert his house started in January 2011 when co-workers at the Riverhead Campus of Suffolk County Community College launched the Harry Project. But their volunteer efforts proved insufficient to tackle major work that required professionals.
That’s where Mr. Lewis’ friend and colleague, SCCC Professor Gwendolyn Branch, took the next step in making the Harry Project zing. She told members of her Riverhead Rotary about Harry and they, in turn, carried the word to Greenport Rotary members who rapidly embraced the effort.
At Christmas, local Rotarian and Greenport contractor Craig Richter installed a back door on the house with plans to put in a ramp that will give Mr. Lewis a second entrance to his home.
Friday, Mr. Richter and other Rotarians were back to start work on widening the entry way to Mr. Lewis’ bathroom so he’ll no longer have to drag himself along the floor, but can wheel himself into the bathroom to use the facilities. Then there will ongoing work to make his kitchen handicapped accessible. Eventually, a second floor apartment will be made rentable to provide Mr. Lewis with some added income.
He has been living alone since his parents died — his mother in 2008 and his father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, the following year. Two of his five sisters had also died, Nancy in 2002 at the age of 40, and Cherie in 2003 when she was 35. His other sisters were forced to move from the North Fork — two to Maine and one to Missouri — because they couldn’t support themselves here.
But Mr. Lewis was determined to stay in the community he loves.
For the full story on the Rotarians’ work on Mr. Lewis’ house, see Thursday’s Suffolk Times.