Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Greenport were back at Harry Lewis’ house in the Village Saturday putting in framing that will result in a larger wheelchair-accessible bathroom.
It’s all part of the Harry Project, started by Mr. Lewis’ colleagues at Suffolk County Community College and carried forward largely by the Rotarians, with money secured at fund-raising events and contributions of materials and labor from various area contractors and volunteers.
The 40-year-old Mr. Lewis was born with cerebral palsy and lived in the Main Street home with his parents until their deaths — his mother in 2008 and his father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, the following year. Two of his five sisters have 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.
Mr. Lewis loves Greenport and has been determined to stay here despite the difficulties, but he has lacked the funds to maintain the house and do the work necessary to make it wheelchair accessible.
Rotarian Craig Richter, a Greenport contractor who has been managing the project, and Rotarian colleagues Joe Cherepowich, John Sabitiono and Buddy Johnson have been on site many weekends in the past month with other Rotarian volunteers helping to scope out and implement the project.
Watching the men install insulation in the newly designed bathroom, Mr. Lewis joked that he’ll sleep in there this winter, since it will be the warmest room in the house.
What might the men have been doing Saturday had they not committed to Harry’s Project?
“I’d be clamming,” Mr. Richter said. Mr. Johnson took a bit of ribbing from his friends when he said he’d be out on the practice course at Island’s End Golf Course.
“Do you need that much practice?” Mr. Richter wanted to know.
Mr. Cherepowich considered he was trading off one project for another because he would have been home creating storage space for his wife. That will fall to other family members this weekend, he said.
For Mr. Johnson, the answer was simple: “Sleeping.”
While the men were working, they were also looking around at the house to determine other needs. Mr. Cherepowich offered to enlist other Rotarians to come out and cut back overgrown bushes in the yard to open up the space for Mr. Lewis.
“I think they’re all extraordinary,” Mr. Lewis said about the Rotarians, who are tackling the job of making his life easier. “When I stop to think about it, it’s overwhelming. I’m amazed day by day with the changes taking place.”