There was a time when Sally could run a mile in nine minutes and work in her garden from sun up to sundown.

Things have changed since those days. On a recent birthday, it took the Spokane native over 20 minutes to reach her front door from an entrance gate 25 feet away. Sally had her daughter drop her off, but said she could make it into her home without a problem.

“I didn’t want her to see how bad off I was,” Sally said.

Navigating her tenuous steps with the help of a walker, Sally has limited use of her arms and requires an oxygen tank everywhere she goes. Two years ago, she was volunteering with a local nonprofit during the winter and suffered a coronary embolism when the cord to her oxygen tank froze. She was in the hospital for four weeks recovering from the blood clot.

SNAP employees and volunteers from HDR Engineers set the foundation for wheelchair ramp at the home.
SNAP employees and volunteers from HDR Engineers set the foundation for wheelchair ramp at the home.

“I just can’t keep up with everything,” she said. “It’s OK to use the walker as long as I’m on solid ground but when I have to take it down the stairs, it’s very heavy and I’ve fallen backward twice. It’s a challenge.”

SNAP identified Sally’s house as a repair project, unfortunately a shortage of funds made it difficult to address all the required work. It was around that time that HDR Engineers came to the rescue.

Thanks to a grant from the HDR Foundation, Sally’s house is undergoing a dramatic facelift, including installation of an aluminum wheelchair ramp, replacement of a door that will give Sally safe access to the ramp and extensive yard cleaning.

The overall HDR donation of $10,000 is addressing vital home repairs in the neighborhoods surrounding the company’s office on Trent Avenue. In addition, the company is providing volunteer hours for projects like Sally’s. On Feb. 20, close to a dozen HDR employees took time out of their Saturday to clear debris, pour concrete and bring some sunlight into Sally’s day.

Troy Gibbs, a wastewater engineer with HDR, said it was rewarding to pitch in and support a disadvantaged neighbor. He brought his son to the work project “so he could see the importance of helping people.”

Troy Gibbs of HDR Engineers hauls debris from the yard of Sally Gibson on Feb. 20. Gibson would say later that the transformation of the grounds around her home was “like a miracle.”
Troy Gibbs of HDR Engineers hauls debris from the yard of Sally Gibson on Feb. 20. Gibson would say later that the transformation of the grounds around her home was “like a miracle.”

“It’s good to get out and help in the community and be part of the community,” Gibbs said. “There are people who are less fortunate than us and it’s always good to get out and help those in need. “It’s an honor that HDR is willing to do this.”

The HDR volunteer crew joined employees from SNAP’s Housing Improvements Department at the work site. Housing Improvements Specialist Michelle Christie said the funds and donated time from HDR will make a big difference for Sally.

“All of these improvements will lead to greater access to needed services, like medical appointments, physical therapy and counseling services so Sally will not be isolated in her home,” Christie said.

Todd Jensen, senior project engineer at HDR, said he and his colleagues appreciated the opportunity to lend a hand.

“First off, SNAP is an excellent organization and we really like the work they do,” Jensen said. “We’re glad to help them and help our community. We had a good turnout from the office for this. It’s been good to be out here today.”

The HDR Foundation distributes funds to nonprofits throughout the nation, drawing upon donations from employees that are matched by the company.

“To see all that giving back is pretty cool,” Jensen said.

Sally came out briefly during the work project to greet the crew and express thanks. She said later that her prayer messages to the Shrine of St. Jude had been answered.

“I asked that he send a band of angels to protect my property,” Sally said. “This means more than you could ever imagine. It’s such a tremendous blessing. I’m just so appreciative.”

Looking ahead to summer and her transformed yard, Sally said she is “hoping to go out and plant some new seeds and do some things.”

“I was amazed and overwhelmed with the magnificent accomplishment on my grounds and yard,” she said. “It was like miracle.”