Lakewood resident and retired Cleveland Police Officer Kenneth Gibbons sat comfortably in his armchair with a smile across his face as he took in the sounds surrounding his home. Outside, a crew of volunteers hoisted ladders and sanded off chipped paint in preparation for the weekend-long job to come.
LakewoodAlive joined forces last weekend with members of the Cleveland Police and Fire Departments to complete an exterior painting project for Mr. Gibbons – a U.S. Army veteran – and his wife. Throughout the three-day stretch, more than 20 volunteers contributed their time to helping this fellow first responder achieve a fresh paint job on his historic 1910 home.
“It’s overwhelming to see this,” said Mr. Gibbons, 80, who suffers from mobility limitations. “There are a lot of good-hearted people here today, and it’s a real blessing to have them.”
Added Captain Keith Sulzer of the Cleveland Police Department: “The fact that the community is coming together to help this hero is just incredible. Kenny is a remarkable story and he’s very appreciative of the help he’s receiving.”
Mr. Gibbons served in the U.S. Army during the early 1960s before joining the Cleveland Police in 1965. Three years into his law enforcement career, he was shot nine times while in the line of duty and nearly had to have his arm amputated. Two of the bullets remain lodged in his body to this day.
“This guy is an absolute hero,” said Detective Chris Gibbons (no relation) of the Cleveland Police Department. “This is a chance for us to help out and show our love for a fellow first responder. He’s a proud guy who wants to stay in his house.”
Chris Gibbons credits Rory McNamara of the Cleveland Fire Department for coordinating with his cousin, LakewoodAlive’s Community Engager Mark McNamara, to help ensure this volunteer project took place.
“This project is Rory and Mark’s baby,” said Chris Gibbons. “There’s a friendly little rivalry between police and fire, but this is a great story about our departments coming together for a common cause.”
Despite enduring sweltering temperatures each day that neared 90 degrees, the volunteers enjoyed building camaraderie while aiding a local hero. They passed the time by listening to music and telling jokes. When hunger set in, they put down their paint brushes and fired up the grill.
LakewoodAlive has been assisting Mr. Gibbons and his wife with housing needs for nearly a year. Last August, Allison Urbanek, LakewoodAlive’s Housing & Internal Operations Director, arranged for members of LakewoodAlive’s board of directors to complete an extensive yard cleanup project to clear the property of tall grasses, vines and overgrown weeds.
More recently, the Cleveland Police and Fire Departments brought a crew to the house to clean out Mr. Gibbon’s basement. And Ride With Valor – a nonprofit organization devoted to assisting military veterans with finding housing solutions – hopes to raise sufficient funds to be able to install a stair lift in the near future.
“I’m a veteran and so is Mr. Gibbons,” said Scot Rhoda, Director of Ride With Valor. “He also served as a Cleveland Police Officer and was injured in the line of duty. It’s one of those things where sometimes people get forgotten about, and that’s not right. We’re not going to let that happen with Mr. Gibbons.”
LakewoodAlive thanks the following companies, organizations and people for helping to make this volunteer project possible: Cleveland Fire Department, Cleveland Police Department, AAA Gas & Welding Supply Co., Dependable Painting Company, The Doughnut Pantry, Dunkin’, Onix, Ride With Valor, Sherwin-Williams, neighbors of Arthur Avenue, Jason Case, Kevin Ferry, Chris Gibbons, Rory McNamara, Scot Rhoda, Barb Shipley and John Whelan.
LakewoodAlive administers a Housing Outreach Program designed to offer a one-stop place for residents, both owner occupants and renters, to gain access to services so they are able to live in healthy and safe housing. Through these programs we foster and sustain vibrant neighborhoods, one home at a time. For more information, please contact Allison Urbanek at 216-521-0655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.