Vermillion residents on a mission of love Ron Turner of Turner Plumbing in Vermillion applies solder to freshly installed copper pipe Tuesday as he worked on building a new, handicapped accessible bathroom in the Tim and Wanda Hannahs home. by David Lias Members of the Vermillion Fire Department traded their reflective, protective firefighting clothing for coveralls, and their axes for hammers Tuesday as they descended on the Wanda and Tim Hannahs home in Vermillion.
They, along with many other volunteers from Vermillion and surrounding communities, are performing what can most accurately be termed a mission of love as they work at a feverish pace to build a 990 square foot addition to the Hannahs home.
Wanda Hannahs remains a patient at Sioux Valley Hospital following a Sept. 11 traffic accident that nearly claimed her life.
Wanda, an employee of the billing and maintenance department of the Sioux Valley Vermillion Campus, is paralyzed from the shoulders down after things went terribly wrong approximately two months ago as the family began a camping trip.
Wanda was driving the family's pickup which was pulling their camper. Passengers in the pickup were their daughter, Dana, and the family dog. Tim was following on his motorcycle.
He watched in horror as a tire on the camper blew out, causing the camper to fishtail out of control when Wanda was attempting to pass a semi-trailer.
The pickup rolled into the median between the north and southbound lanes of Interstate 29 approximately 2 1/2 miles south of the Alcester/Wakonda exit. Dana and their dog were tossed into the back of the pickup. Dana received minor injuries, and was treated and released at the local hospital.
Wanda was thrown through the front windshield of the pickup and landed on her shoulder in the left lane of southbound Interstate 29.
Wanda sustained injuries to her spinal cord and around a cervical vertebrae. The injuries have robbed her of the ability to move her arms and legs.
Three vertebrae were fused by surgeons Sept. 14 to stabilize the fractured portion of her back.
Wanda has been able to regain a small amount of function and sensation in her shoulders. It's too early to tell, Tim said Tuesday, just how full her recovery may be.
"The staff at the hospital are working with her, hoping that someday she'll be strong enough to be able to move over by herself," he said. "Her spirits are up. You go by months, not weeks, with this type of spinal cord injury. We're still thinking positive. We know we're still in the early stages of her recovery."
While Wanda concentrates on the healing process, a group of volunteers has become immersed in their work for two weeks now, hoping to finish the construction of an addition to the Hannahs' house by Christmas that will allow Wanda to return home.
The Hannahs house continues to be a beehive of activity. The exterior walls and the roof of the addition are up already. Approximately a dozen firemen concentrated their efforts Tuesday on adding flashing and shingles to the roof.
The men planned to work into the night by shining spotlights on the addition's exterior. Volunteers were attempting to not only beat a self-imposed deadline, but also to meet certain goals before a weather system moved into the area Wednesday that was forecast to bring rain and snow.
In the middle of this whirlwind is Louie Fostvedt, one of five retired Vermillion men who are working as carpenters on the project. Louie is pulling double duty, serving as coordinator of the project as well.
Besides five carpenters and a dozen firemen, Louie helped a work force that included two electricians and two plumbers.
He could never stay still for long Tuesday afternoon. When men had a question, or needed tools or materials, they turned to Louie for answers.
"We've gotten real good cooperation," he said. "We have a lot of experience with a lot of them."
Louie has found volunteers to provide more than just general labor. Individuals with special expertise have helped to make this undertaking become a reality.
Ty Waage, for example, drew the blueprints for the building addition. Louie keeps a copy of the blueprints with him; the deep folds in the paper indicate that he has referred to them often, and guarded them closely by always refolding them and returning them to his pocket.
Waage's design calls for the addition of a new garage, a large bedroom and a new bathroom onto the Hannah house.
When completed, the new addition will allow Wanda plenty of room to move to the bedroom and bathroom in her wheelchair.
Wanda also will not be deprived of transportation, thanks to the new garage and an elevator system that will allow her to be wheeled from the house into the van, and then returned to the main floor level of the Hannahs' family home.
"From the van, Wanda, in her wheelchair can be unloaded onto a lift and that will bring her up to the floor level," Louie said.
Both Louie and Tim struggled to name everyone who is helping out with this venture. They didn't want to accidentally omit giving credit where it's due.
Tim even reached for a wallet in his shirt pocket, a pocket he calls his filing cabinet. It's becoming full with business cards, scraps of paper with notes scribbled on them, and other bits of information, from names to phone numbers that today are vital as he cares for both Wanda and his family here in Vermillion.
Louie is thankful for men like LeRoy Backhaus and Larry Lofgren, who have been out at the work site nearly every day for the past couple weeks.
All of the workers also sing the praises of women involved in clubs and church groups who never fail to bring hot coffee, other beverages and something good to eat to the work site. The University of South Dakota's physical therapy students also have offered to help the volunteers.
Ron Turner of Turner Plumbing in Vermillion is donating labor and materials to construct Wanda's new bathroom. Tuesday, he was busy with solder and a blowtorch, sealing the joints on newly installed copper pipe.
The addition's rafters and trusses were purchased from Herren-Schempp Building Supply. The Vermillion company also designed the rafter system. Tim and Wanda are both employees of Sioux Valley Vermillion Campus, which in the past year has undertaken several building projects of its own. Several contractors that worked on the local Sioux Valley Campus projects are now helping the Hannahs family.
A firm named Radack from Hartington, NE has helped out, and Kevin Bliss will finish the addition's concrete work once it is poured. Midwest Mechanical of Sioux Falls is helping with plumbing, and a commercial drywall contractor, Midwest Partitions of Thedford, NE, is also providing labor and materials. Krier and Blane Heating and Air Conditioning of Sioux Falls has donated a furnace and duct work for the house. Scott Kennedy of Electrical Supply Company, Sioux Falls, was busy installing electrical lines Tuesday.
A building effort like this really isn't anything new for Louie. For several years he's been associated with Mission of Love, a group that routinely travels to such places as the jungles of Mexico to construct medical clinics and other building improvements.
"We're calling this Mission of Love Concerns," Louie said, raising his voice to be heard above the roofers nailing new shingles.
He noted that at times, workers don't know if they are coming or going, because they are so busy.
"The sheetrock people will be here in a week-and-a half," he said. "One thing we know for sure — we have to be done by Christmas."