Sue Adler was visiting her friends Heather and Garreth Bowie in Berwick last summer when she realized how hard it must be for them to care for their son Aidan, who has developmental disabilities, in the family’s small home.
“I looked around the house and realized they’ve got it tough,” Adler said. “They’re doing the best they can. But they deserve to have a somewhat easier life.”
Adler has started a community effort to rebuild the Bowies’ home. Tradespeople are donating labor, and lumberyards are providing supplies. People have volunteered to provide food for the workers. Others said they will shovel snow.
The work began Friday, when crews delivered materials for the foundation for an addition with a new bedroom.
The Bowies have no diagnosis for why their 11-year-old son can’t walk on his own or speak. He has so little control over his muscles that when he is bathed, he must be held while being lowered into the tub in a hydraulic chair.
Baths are stressful because Aidan has seizures that can cause him to fall and hit his head.
The volunteers are starting with the family’s top priority: creating a safe way to give Aidan a shower.
The shower must be big enough for him to be wheeled in. And he needs it before March, when he is scheduled to have hip surgery and must rely on a wheelchair for six weeks.
The volunteers will transform Aidan’s bedroom into a shower big enough to hold a wheelchair and one of his parents. They also plan to built a new bedroom for him.
In the project’s second phase, set to begin in the spring, volunteers plan to transform the home’s mud room and porch into a large family room, with a floor at the same level as the rest of the house so Aidan can access it from his powered wheelchair.
Heather Bowie, 40, said she often feels isolated, spending all day at home caring for a disabled child. The volunteer effort to improve the home is so gratifying, she said, because it connects her to other people.
“The community spirit is really wonderful,” she said.
She teaches piano part time, and her husband works as a cabinetmaker. Bowie said they could never afford to make the home improvements, at an estimated cost of $75,000, without the donations of supplies and labor.
Jason Lajeunesse of Exeter, N.H., who owns JDL Building and Remodeling of New England, is acting as the project’s general contractor. Most of the volunteer tradesmen, such as electrician Brian Pay of Barrington, N.H., work with him on other jobs as subcontractors.
When he tells people about the Bowie family, they are eager to help, Lajeunesse said.
“It’s amazing. Almost everybody I asked was on board doing this,” he said.
Organizers say they must raise an additional $9,000 to buy building materials to complete the new shower and bedroom, and $25,000 for the family room.
Lajeunesse said less money will be needed if people donate materials. He said he hopes that someone can lend a portable toilet for the workers, and he hopes to get donated tile, siding, asphalt shingles, lumber and rough electric and plumbing supplies.
People who want to help can call Adler at (603) 767-4070. Information about the project is available at http://bowiehouse.wordpress.com.
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: