published Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Renovation Rescue: Home Depot, Elks volunteers help renovate home of injured Ooltewah man

Josh Manning, who lost a leg and suffered other injuries in a motorcycle crash in March, stands on a new wheelchair ramp in front of his Ooltewah home. Armed with a grant from the Home Depot Foundation, a team of volunteers modified his home to be more accessible. Manning still needs to use a wheelchair to get around in certain situations.
Josh Manning, who lost a leg and suffered other injuries in a motorcycle crash in March, stands on a new wheelchair ramp in front of his Ooltewah home. Armed with a grant from the Home Depot Foundation, a team of volunteers modified his home to be more accessible. Manning still needs to use a wheelchair to get around in certain situations.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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    Josh Manning lost a leg and suffered other injuries in a motorcycle crash in March, when an 18-wheeler sideswiped him on the interstate. The force of his landing on the asphalt split his helmet sideways.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

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    Mickey Sumter, Jim Flynn and Derrill Talley, from front to back, install pocket doors at the home of Josh Manning. Sumter is a volunteer working with Team Depot, and Talley and Flynn are members of the East Brainerd Elks Lodge No. 91.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

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    Candy Talley, top, from the East Brainerd Elks Lodge No. 91, joins Jan Pope and Len Hubble, right, Team Depot volunteers from the Hamilton Place Home Depot, to paint porch railings at the home of Josh Manning.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

HOME DEPOT FOUNDATION GRANTS

• An organization must be a 501(c)3 or tax-exempt public service agency (fire departments, etc.) and have existed for at least one year to qualify for a grant.

• Grants are given in the form of Home Depot gift cards.

• You can buy a lot more than flooring and drywall with the gift card grant. Home Depot welcomes grant applicants who want to buy vegetables and fruit trees for community gardens or weatherize a low-income family's home so it will be more energy efficient.

• Home Depot especially welcomes projects that help U.S. military veterans.

• Grants can be used to rehab buildings for recreation centers or job skills training centers for low-income neighborhoods or veterans.

• Work must be completed by volunteers within six months of the grant being awarded.

• Go to homedepotfoundation.org for more details.

Josh Manning was having a wonderful day right up to the minute he almost died.

A 25-year-old Amazon employee and Army Reserve member, Manning shares custody of his 2-year old son Michael and, on March 23, he delighted the toddler by taking him to see "Muppets Most Wanted." After dropping his son off at home after the movie, Manning remembers getting on his cherished 2008 Yamaha R6 motorcycle and heading off to meet some friends at an East Ridge car show that promised vintage and brand-new cars, music and food.

He was nearing the Interstate 24-75 split and remembers a shadow looming over to him, probably the gigantic 18-wheeler truck in the next lane.

That's where his memories of March 23 and several ensuing days end. The next thing he remembers is awakening from a medically induced coma to find his right leg gone and his right arm suffering severe nerve damage. He had been in the coma for 23 days.

"It's like pieces of time were carved out of my life that day," Manning muses. "What I know about the accident comes from police reports and witnesses."

The corner of the truck clipped Manning, destroying his leg and sending him flying. He smashed to the asphalt so hard the back of his helmet split sideways. The truck never stopped.

"I truly do not believe he ever knew that he hit me; I was in his blind spot," Manning says with no hint of bitterness. "If he felt me colliding with his truck at all, it probably just felt like a sudden hard wind rocking his truck a little."

Scheduled this month for surgery on his arm at Emory University in Atlanta, Manning is currently fitted with a prosthetic limb known as a C-leg which, thanks to its microprocessors and delicate hydraulics, allows him a great deal of movement and flexibility. While he learns to use the leg expertly, he needs to use a wheelchair for getting into and out of vehicles, in and out of bed, and in and out of the shower.

He is confident that he will be able to hike and run one day. He wants to return to his Amazon job -- he's currently on long-term disability -- and continue fulfilling his Army Reserve duties, partly because the Army will help pay for his college degree. His dream is to get an education degree and become a science teacher.

All those dreams seemed more problematic when he was wasting energy navigating prosaic obstacles like getting up the porch steps to the front door of his mother's Ooltewah home, a beautiful lemon-hued Victorian perched on a mountain crest. The steep incline makes it tough for Manning to get from the driveway to the porch steps in his wheelchair, and beyond that, there are no ramps at the front and back entrances. Inside, the first floor is carpeted and the bathroom doors too narrow for a wheelchair. The cost of installing ramps, grab bars and hardwood flooring was too much for Manning and his mother.

But two groups of volunteers have come to his rescue.

A Manning family friend contacted East Brainerd's Elks Lodge No. 91, knowing that its members included some talented and resourceful carpenters, electricians and plumbers.

"My husband is an excellent carpenter and I knew if he saw Josh's house, he could figure out how to make it work for his new life," says Candy Talley, who heads the Elks Lodge. "Our lodge supports a lot of activities related to health care. ... And we are always ready to help veterans. Josh has such a sweet personality, we really wanted to help him."

Still, while the Elks had the skills to do the work, they did not have the necessary supplies. Talley mentioned the problem to Lisa Morgan, service coordinator for the Chattanooga Area Brain Injury Association, who knew just where to turn.

"The Home Depot Foundation offers grants that help remodel homes for people with disabilities; I had gotten a grant for one of my patients last year. Volunteers from the Home Depot on Gunbarrel Road did an amazing job on the home," Morgan says. "I told the Elks I would apply for a grant on Josh's behalf."

The foundation gave $3,000 toward the remodel on Manning's home.

It wasn't the first time the generosity of the Home Depot Foundation visited Ooltewah. In October, Snow Hill Elementary School won a nationwide contest and received a $10,000 Home Depot gift card grant. The students explained in their entry essay that their playground had become a wasteland of sharp rocks, rotted wooden playsets, safety hazards and fire ants. The school used the grant to rebuild its playground and outfit a new play area with equipment the right size for pre-K students.

"There really isn't a specific minimum and maximum for Home Depot grants; we give the amount that seems appropriate for the situation," Chattanooga-based Home Depot spokesman Jan Pope says. "Nationwide, we've given $80 million in grants over the past five years."

The Home Depot Foundation describes an array of nonprofit groups that have gotten grants after applying on behalf of disabled individuals, particularly veterans, and entities such as recreation centers and American Legion posts whose aging buildings need repairs. Applicants can buy more than lumber, drywall and chainsaws with grant cards. The foundation's website suggests community gardens and parks as possible grant projects with cards used to buy fruit trees and fruit and vegetable plants.

About a week ago, volunteers from Home Depot met the Elks in Ooltewah. The same day, the half dozen volunteers transformed Manning's home into one he can navigate with ease.

They built a ramp from the driveway to the front porch and replaced the carpeting with wood flooring inside. They added grab bars in the bathtub and shower and widened the bathroom door by a crucial few inches so Manning can roll through in his wheelchair.

A day later, Manning's little boy spent his first weekend playing with his dad in a home so comfortable, the child often forgets his dad is disabled.

"He really seems to forget that my leg is missing when we play here," Manning says, beaming a huge smile.

Contact Lynda Edwards at ledwards@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6391.

about Lynda Edwards...

Lynda Edwards has covered just about every beat there is while working for The Associated Press, PBS as a Frontline and Nightly Business Report associate producer, Gannett in the heart of Louisiana Cajun country as well as newspapers in Miami, Tucson AZ, Colorado and Arkansas. She has freelanced for The New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, Vogue, Rolling Stone and The Washington Monthly. While at the ABA Journal, she won a Fourth Estate Award, Lisagor ...

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