Exemplifying the kindness of strangers

Local church builds handicap ramp for Milford woman

MILFORD – Barbara Dodge said she knows there are bad people in the world, but she is over­whelmed by the goodness of local people.

Dodge has multiple scle­rosis and uses a wheel­chair or a walker to get around. After her husband died a year ago, she had to sell the home she loved in Merrimack, a house where they had lived for 26 years. And she had to sell it quickly, because she couldn’t afford the taxes.

Her son, Chris, is her chief caretaker, and while she was in the hospital for a long stay, he found them a mobile home on Ponemah Hill Road in Milford. It was a roof over their heads, but it had a serious defect.

"The stairs were in such awful shape," she said.

Because she needs to make trips to the doctor’s office and hospital, and gets visits from home health aids and Meals on Wheels, safe passage is vital.

But an accessible ramp was beyond her means, and she almost despaired of having one.

"I felt like a prisoner in my own place," she said.

Then one day came a visit from a man she didn’t know.

"A distinguished gentle­man knocked on my door," Dodge said.

The man was the Rev. Hank Junkin, rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mil­ford’s Episcopal church.

"I see you need a ramp," she remembered him say­ing. "The stairs are terri­ble. … We’re going to tend to that." Junkin said church members would install a ramp at no charge.

"I was overwhelmed with happiness," Dodge said.

So holes were dug, foot­ings poured and supports secured, and on a recent Saturday, a crew of vol­unteers wielding drills, wrenches and screwdriv­ers arrived to build the ramp, under the direc­tion of Dan Chouinard, who has been part of the church’s WorkCamp teams for 20 years.

There also was help from Habitat for Human­ity, which supplied many of the materials.

Now the ramp is finished. Dodge said it’s perfect for her needs and makes the mobile home a much more pleasant place to live.

Dodge can’t get over the kindness of so many people – people with their own busy lives, she said, who spent time and effort helping her.

"Everybody who comes in loves it … and next spring I can sit out there on a nice day," Dodge said. "And it’s safe, that’s the main thing. To me, it’s a miracle."

Church members are staying in contact, and they help out Dodge and her son when they can, driving her to doctor’s appointments or helping around the house.

"They’ve been so kind," Dodge said. "I can’t thank them enough."

One of the volunteers, Elizabeth Rotch, of Mil­ford, calls the project a way "to make a difference in the world. … Local folks stepping outside the doors of our church to act on our belief that we are called to help our neighbors."