While Waxahachie musician Mark Garth sat in his living room Friday afternoon responding to Facebook friends, an all-volunteer crew was busy taking down the rear of his house. The project is an addition and renovation to what was Garth’s bedroom.
“I’ve been on Facebook trying to get people over to help and am busy answering friends’ posts about the renovation,” Garth said, still responding to the many posts. All the while the volunteers, headed by Glenn Hejny, started the demolition effort to prepare the structure for the new construction.
In fact, Garth’s first view of the afternoon’s activities came in the evening when Jean Taylor, who was inside the house, asked Garth if a wall could be removed, showing him a picture on her telephone.
“Geeze” Garth said with a wide smile.
Soon after, Garth, who uses a wheelchair, was out on the open floor with all of the inside walls and siding removed. All that was left was the floor, a few support studs and the roof.
“This is awesome,” he said. “This is the beginning of a new life for me. I’m starting life over again. I just don’t know how I could be so fortunate.”
“Watch out, Scotty, that’s a load bearing wall,” one of the workers shouted to a volunteer as he started to hammer on one of the few remaining supports.” As that warning was sounded, Hejny was also cautioning those who came to help him about nails that were sticking out of boards.
As work continued on the demolition, another set of helpers was busy loading the debris into a construction dumpster.
Not all of the materials from the demolition were thrown away. Hejny said the tin on the roof was good and he will use it to build Garth a covering over the ramp they will build connecting the new bedroom porch to his carport.
“We are also going to work on the driveway and smooth it up so Garth can roll in and out of it,” Hejny said.
The project began as a fundraiser during Waxajam 8, which was held in October. During the Saturday jam session, a video was shown showing the conditions of Garth’s living area and the need for the renovation to improve his life.
Besides the funds raised during the jam weekend from various fundraisers, several members of the community and area businesses have also stepped up to help with the project.
Soon after the Waxajam weekend, plans started in earnest to make the renovation a reality. Waxajam board president Sam Taylor went to Hejny asking him to consider the project.
“After I saw the video, looking at the house and then meeting Mark, the Lord called to do this for Mark,” said Hejny, who was then introduced at Waxajam’s November “After the scene of the crime” get-together at the Texas Theater.
“The hardest part is making a dream come true; this dream will happen,” Taylor told Garth and those who gathered for the post-Waxajam meeting.
While Garth was sitting in what was left of his old bedroom, he told Hejny and the many volunteers, “I can’t believe it is really happening, this is so awesome.”
Besides updating the bathroom and bedroom areas to make them fully accessible to Garth from his wheelchair, the project includes the addition of another 8 feet to the rear of the room – which will almost double the size of the room he had before.
Other features will be a new floor made level with the kitchen floor so Garth can easily move from one room to the other.
“We are also building a new shower so he can easily get in and out of it and not have water draining back onto the floor. All of this is in addition to the new back porch, covered ramp and improved driveway,” Hejny said.
The project has received the support of businesses across Ellis County. Hejny’s business, Hejny contracting, is based in Ennis and many of his employees are volunteering their time. He is also helped by members of the Damascus Road Fellowship Church as well as other construction trade professionals who have stepped up.
“I love helping people. This is a spiritual gift,” Donna Betik of Ennis said during a break to clear her glasses and get a drink of water. Betik, a construction veteran who has been to Mexico helping to build houses, added, “He told us about this project and I came to do what I could.”
One of the professional carpenters, Steve Stallings, said as he climbed on the roof to start removing the old roofing materials, “Glenn told us about this at church last Sunday. I just got off of work to come and help.”
With the sounds of the demolition in progress, many of Garth’s neighbors came out the see what was happening with some coming on over to help. “This is awesome, I’m so happy for Mark,” one remarked as she helped Robby Bass power a time-lapse camera documenting the events of the construction.
By mid-day Saturday, the demolition was complete and the new construction began with the extended flooring deck. Almost all of the Friday volunteers, plus some new additions, were busy cutting wood and nailing together the new framework.
“This is a really great experience to be able to help improve someone’s life. Not many young people get this opportunity,” Wade Taylor said while securing the new joist to the header rail.
Hejny estimates the construction will last about eight weeks.
“Provided we do not run into any plumbing or electrical problems there should be no issues with the home,” he said. “Everything we are doing here is first class. The materials are good quality. We have several skilled trades people involved.
“This will be nothing less than a first class place for Mark to live in when the work is complete,” Hejny said, describing the project.
While the construction is in progress, Garth will stay at a local nursing home. He was previously going to stay with one of the volunteers in Ennis, but arrangements were made at the Waxahachie home.
“I’m excited about being there while my home is being rebuilt, I’ll have everything I need as well as being close so I can come and be here while the work is being done,” he said.
Garth is a graduate of the Waxahachie high school class of 1967 and has been paralyzed from the chest down since July 1965 due to a an automobile accident. At that time he was the keyboard musician for a band called the Techniques. The Techniques played for the first time since 1966 during 2010’s Waxajam 8.