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Groups, volunteers pull together to assist veteran

October 11, 2012
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - When Henry Summers woke up in the basement of his house recently, it started out like any other day.

The 85-year-old World War II veteran started to lose his ability to walk a couple of years back and with it, he also lost the ability to access the main floor of his home, which didn't have a wheelchair ramp.

Upon looking outside that morning, though, Summers, who has lived in Harvey for more than 50 years, was surprised to see a group of strangers - about 10 strong - preparing to build a welcome addition.

Article Photos

Henry Summers uses his new wheelchair ramp that was installed last week. The Warrior Relief Fund organized a group of volunteers to construct the ramp for Summers, an 85-year-old World War II veteran. (Warrior Relief Fund photo)

"I had not (met them). I didn't know who they were," he said. "I went outside and here's this whole group of people with a work trailer and they're setting up a table saw. ... There was no ifs, ands or buts. They just started to work."

By the following evening, Summers had a ramp, the culmination of efforts that began at his church, Harvey's Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

When doctors told Summers he wasn't getting enough natural light and that it would be good for him to have access to the upper floor of his home, his friend Jim Armstrong began to solicit assistance through the church. Soon, the cause was picked up by Marquette's American Legion Post 44, which Armstrong is involved with.

And from there, an email was sent to Liz Mathie, the president of Marquette's Warrior Relief Fund, an organization that was created to provide assistance to military members and families throughout Marquette County.

"I got that email and I just immediately started calling people," Mathie said. "I used Facebook and just called a couple guys that I knew that had tools. We were able to gather up about 10 volunteers."

Mathie, who served two tours of duty in Iraq before creating the Warrior Relief Fund last year, said last week's project is just the kind of thing she was hoping to facilitate when she started the organization.

Oftentimes, people looking for assistance have a tendency to look toward national or government-based organizations, she said, but her goal is to provide that assistance locally.

To date, the Warrior Relief Fund has about $15,000 on-hand, according to Mathie. Even more important than the money, though, is the spirit of those involved, according to Armstrong, who helped to get the ball rolling on the recent construction project.

"I've never seen cooperation like that," he said. "It brings tears to your eyes when you see all that help that was just out there waiting."

Summers said he took pride in assisting with volunteer projects when he was younger and for him, the surprise of seeing a group of young volunteers on his lawn still hasn't fully worn off.

"I thought those people were gone. I got a big surprise," he said. "There are still good people - great people."

Much of the funds for the project came from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, through the Veterans' Trust Fund.

For more information on the Warrior Relief Fund, or to seek assistance, call Mathie at 225-1904.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.



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