Dish of just deserts awaits helpful teen
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times,
ST. PETERSBURG -- A teenager who built wheelchair ramps for two disabled St. Petersburg women is the latest recipient of the governor's Points of Light Award, which recognizes Florida residents and organizations for exemplary service to the community.
Brett Edwards, 15, built the ramps for his service project to become an Eagle Scout, the highest honor in Scouting. Constructed last summer, the ramps have improved the quality of the women's lives, the recipients say.
"I love it. I wouldn't give up the ramp for nobody," said Louise Heite, 68, who is partly blind and gets around on a scooter.
Virginia Doty, 75, spends most of her time in a wheelchair and had left her house only about four times the year before her ramp was installed.
"It's made it easier for me to get out of the house, because the steps, though they were only a few, they made a difference," she said. "I have fallen on them a couple of times and that was so scary."
A photograph of a smiling Mrs. Doty leaving her mobile home is displayed in Brett's 3-inch-thick journal of the project.
"Just seeing her come out made me feel so good that I made such a huge difference in this lady's life," Brett, a member of Troop 367 of the Cathedral of St. Jude, said Tuesday evening.
Brett's project, which included dismantling a donated ramp and retrofitting it at Mrs. Heite's mobile home as well as building a new ramp for Mrs. Doty, was "ambitious," scoutmaster Steve Luther said.
"Either one would have been enough to complete his project," he added.
There were times when he wanted to give up, conceded Brett, who is a sophomore at St. Petersburg Catholic High School and runs for the cross country team.
"But I knew that I couldn't. I had to keep on going and help these ladies out," he said, adding that completing the paperwork and getting the building permits were the most challenging facets of his project.
His father, Tom, had worked on a similar volunteer project a few months earlier, Brett said.
To start, Brett contacted Mary Jensen at the Caring and Sharing Center for Independent Living to get the names of people who needed ramps. It was Mrs. Jensen who later nominated the teen for the governor's award.
Brett will join others similarly honored during the past year at a reception Oct. 16 at the governor's mansion in Tallahassee, said Mary Scott Gilbert, communications director for the Florida Commission on Community Service.
Brett said he couldn't have accomplished his task without the help of several adults, including his father, mother, Cindy, scoutmaster, Joe Paige of Diversified Builders Inc. in Clearwater, Timothy R. Rhode of Rhode Clemmons Architects Inc. and David Britner of the city of St. Petersburg's Housing and Community Development Department. Members of Brett's troop, who worked under his supervision, also played an important role.
Mrs. Doty said she was enthralled as she sat at her window watching them work.
"So many kids, you read about the awful things they are doing and then you see a bunch of kids like these and see what they are doing. The whole day made me have a lot of faith in the future," she said.
"That Brett, I will never forget him and his dad. I am just sorry not everybody can know a Brett."
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