“This is absolutely life-changing.”
Joyann Maddox of Paradis couldn’t contain her thankfulness and excitement as she talked about the ramp that was recently installed at her home. It was built by Destrehan High School carpentry students and funded by United Way St. Charles.
“They built a handicap ramp free of charge for myself and my family. I cannot thank them enough,” she said. “I have severe degenerative osteoarthritis of both knees, right hip, hand, and spine making walking difficult. Steps are nearly impossible.”
Living with Maddox is her daughter Heather Westbrook, who has hydrocephalus.
“Last year, at the time I applied for the ramp, she had had six brain surgeries in a six-week period where she stayed in ICU,” Maddox said. “She has had over 35 surgeries in her 37 years. After her surgeries last year she lost some mobility due to swelling on her brain. She will also benefit from the ramp.”
United Way St Charles approved the ramp build last year, but days before it was set to be constructed Hurricane Ida hit.
“Unfortunately, due to COVID and the hurricane the school wasn’t able to actually build and install the ramp until this month … 13 months later,” Maddox said. “It was well worth the wait. I can now easily get to my car. Just three steps kept me from enjoying my yard, travel, and other things. Now I can walk directly to my car with no steps.”
Maddox said Craig Perrier Jr., who teaches the DHS carpentry class, and his crew of students are heroes in her book.
“His group of young, hard-working shop students measured, sawed, cut, and nailed the ramp together,” she said. “I was so impressed at the communication between these young men and how they worked together, under Perrier’s direction, to get this built quickly and efficiently. These men worked together as a team and boy does it show.”
Without funding, Maddox added, the ramp build would not have been possible.
“Special thanks to Tamara Plattsmier of United Way for helping me by keeping the lines of communication open and my case at the forefront from the time I applied to the completion,” Maddox said. “I didn’t go out much. I used to take pictures and get out and explore. This ramp this will give me the opportunity to go more places and do things, and that helps mentally with depression issues. I don’t want to have to depend on anybody, and this gives me the opportunity to take care of myself.”
Perrier said Maddox’s ramp is the first one constructed by his current group of students.
“It’s amazing,” he said of watching the teenagers learn new things in the carpentry class. “They are ready and excited to come to school, and a lot of times you don’t see that.”
DHS students Muhammad Murtaza, Nathan Hall, Terrance Anderson, LaCorey Cannon, Luke Hidalgo, and Antonio Williams – who have dubbed themselves the “handyman crew” – all worked on Maddox’s build. Perrier said without United Way St. Charles’ funding the class wouldn’t be able to have these experiences.
“To see their faces after Ms. Joy was so happy … it means the world to me,” Perrier said. “They’re learning in a fun way, and even though it’s hard work they’re learning and it’s teaching them a great work ethic. They’re enjoying it so much they don’t realize all the lessons they’re learning.”
Plattsmier, UWSC’s volunteer and event manager, said the collaboration between UWSC and the DHS’ carpentry classes goes back to 2017. She added that Maddox’s ramp is the first one built since the pandemic and hurricane.
“The program absolutely could not take place or happen without the handyman crew at DHS,” she said. “They’re really the ones doing the work and making it happen.”
For more information on UWCS or to request a ramp, visit www.uwaysc.org.