In the News
WALTERS GROUP EXTENDS HELPING HAND TO DISABLED TEEN; RENOVATES STAFFORD FAMILY'S HOME
Extreme Community Support Makes "Access for Joey" Project a Huge Success
STAFFORD, N.J., March 29, 2010 – When real estate developer Ed Walters started working with the Beach Haven Exchange Club on a community crusade to help renovate the home of a local disabled teen, he knew that together they could make a difference. “They needed someone who was in the construction business, who had the technical skills and connections to pull this off,” said Walters.
The project dubbed “Access for Joey” was initially started by the Exchange Club, the local chapter of a national organization, to renovate the Annarumma family’s small house in the Village Harbor-Coves section into a handicap accessible home for 17-year-old Joey who has cerebral palsy. Joey shared his two-bedroom home with his widowed mother and two brothers. After the Exchange Club helped Joey get a motorized wheelchair, they learned that it was difficult for him to maneuver around his small home. It was then that a grassroots effort got underway to raise money for much-needed home renovations.
“We were originally going to do it in stages,” explained Ron Chaffee, a district officer with the Exchange Club. After a year of fund-raising, and an outpouring of community support, which included the students at Southern Regional High School, and the local police force, they managed to collect $45,000.
The original plan was to renovate the family’s garage into two additional bedrooms, giving Joey his own room with wheelchair access. “But when Ed came in, we were able to stretch our budget,” added Chaffee. “We realized that by teaming up with Ed and his crew, we could do the whole thing all at once. They were very influential and very giving. This project has been the largest and most successful that this Exchange Club has ever done.”
“The family had gone long enough living in a home that was not suitable for them,” explained Walters, president of the Walters Group. Walters wanted the renovations to be completed in a way that would make everyone involved feel proud of their accomplishment. “I knew we could utilize our connections to generate the additional money needed, in the form of donated labor and materials.”
To get the renovations moving on the fast track, Walters assembled a team of employees to organize the project. The team included Greg Walters, Candyce Fleming, Sharon Lewandoski, Bill Kunze, Jon Parker, and Kathleen Ryan. In just four months, the Walters team sparked their vendors and subcontractors to donate time and materials that amounted to $50,768. In the end, thirty-eight building partners joined forces, donating time and materials to bring the total amount raised up to $95,769.
“The thing that made everything work really, really well was the Walters Group putting their muscle behind it,” added Chaffee. “They stepped right up.”
The end result was an extreme home makeover for the Annarumma family. “I believe that if it wasn’t for the Walters Group the job wouldn’t have progressed the way it did,” said Dawn Annarumma, who works two jobs to support her family. “Once Ed got involved, the ball got rolling. Times are really bad now, so the fact that this happened so fast is really incredible.”
The Annarummas moved back into their enlarged and remodeled home. The revamped house was equipped with a handicapped-accessible bathroom, eat-in-kitchen, and new bedrooms. There was even money left over for some wish list items, according to Fleming, purchasing manager for the Walters Group. “Due to the deep generous nature of our building partners,” extras were purchased for the family, such as a new shed, a deck with wheelchair access, plantation shutters, bedroom furniture for Joey, a dining room set, a flat-screen TV, and a washer and dryer.
Joey and his brothers saw the house for the first time after the community held a “move that bus” ceremony that was reminiscent of the reality show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” “Joey is still beaming when he goes into his room,” said Annarumma. “Right now he has two full casts, but when they come off and he can drive through the house, he’ll be excited all over again.”
“Our subs and vendors truly touched me with their generosity,” Walters added. “If someone would have told me in the beginning that we would raise $50,000, I would have not believed it – not because I question people’s desire to give, but I would have doubted it due to the nature of our economy. Our industry has been hit the hardest during this recession, and that fact makes what we all were able to accomplish that much more special.”
“When I come home from work and see the house, I’m totally in awe of the whole thing,” said Annarumma. “I’m the luckiest person in the world right now.”
Annarumma recounts the difficult decision she made when she left her extended family behind in North Jersey to move to the Stafford area. “My family gave me a hard time,” she recalls. “They said you’re going to have a great deal of difficulty without us around to help you. And now this was the best move I ever made because the community here has embraced me so much. After this, I can show them I did make it.”
Over the years, the Walters Group has been an active supporter of many local organizations in need including the American Red Cross, the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, hurricane relief, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life/American Cancer Society, Toys for Tots, Barnegat Volunteer Fire Company, and Barnegat and Stafford Girls Softball Leagues.