Steve Birky's Story
Steve Birky farmed all his life, took 2 other jobs, and cared for his aging parents. His favorite pastime was softball, which he played for 20 years. Seven years ago, after his parents passed only two days apart from each other, Steve bought his own home.
Sitting idly at home was never his thing, but in February of 2019 life began to change for him in a way he could never imagine. Steve learned he had degenerative arthritis in his back, then suffered from ulcers, followed by congestive heart failure. He spent two months in the hospital and three months in rehabilitation before he could return home.
These health events rendered Steve disabled, significantly limiting his independence. He needed to depend on others for housecleaning, driving, and maintenance on his home, which was difficult to accept for someone as capable and independent as he had always been. When things started needing repairs, Steve knew he couldn’t do the work himself. No longer able to work and surviving on disability also added significant financial constraints.
Steve shared, “I knew the Town of Normal had some programs and grants to help low-income people in the community, so I called them and they referred me to Habitat McLean County’s A Brush With Kindness (ABWK). I applied for two projects, and met Todd (ABWK Coordinator). He is great! He is very thorough, up on things, and wants to do the job well.”
Steve’s first ABWK project last October replaced storm doors. Two months later a second ABWK project replaced his deck and, through a partnership with Ambucs, replaced his front steps with an accessible ramp. When asked what partnering with A Brush With Kindness did for him, Steve replied, “Between the grants and A Brush With Kindness, the remaining costs of the new doors, deck, and ramp are affordable on my budget. It’s a great program for people in a low-income situation that need to get work done.”
As ABWK is doing good works in the community, Steve finds ways he can improve the community from home. A long-time listener of WJBC radio, Steve finds himself calling into the talk shows to share his knowledge and making calls off-air to the hosts to further discuss a topic. It is Steve’s way to reach out and be an informative, respectful, and caring voice in the community.
Steve summed up his A Brush With Kindness experience by saying, “I want Habitat McLean County to know how much I appreciate what they have done for me and I believe their program is great for the community. Thank you!”
Scope of work: Rebuilt deck with ramp. Added deck in the back of home. Replaced screen doors
Worked in partnership with Ambucs
Persons impacted: 1