Saturday at Patricia Ceccarelli’s home in Blasdell felt like Thanksgiving came early.
There was no bountiful feast on her dining room table, but there was a true harvest of gratitude in the air and in Ceccarelli’s heart as she watched an eight-member team of volunteers spend the day doing a “mini-makeover” at her home with donated home-improvement supplies.
Besides raising her waterlogged and sinking backyard shed and replacing two of its walls, the dedicated team also replaced water-damaged and rotting panels of siding on the back of her garage with Masonite siding, installed new drywall for the wall between her garage and home, and even fixed a hole in the ceiling above her kitchen sink.
It was a big deal for Ceccarelli, 62, who has battled multiple sclerosis for 22 years and is unable take care of her home of 35 years.
“It’s been a blessing because it’s stuff I could never do,” said Ceccarelli, who was diagnosed with the disease of the central nervous system when she was 40, forcing her to retire from her job with the Frontier School District. “I always enjoyed taking care of my home, but I can’t keep up with the work.”
“I couldn’t begin to say what this means to me. I’m so blessed. God is good. He really is,” said Ceccarelli, noting how the supplies and materials were donated. “I’m on a real limited income, so this would have been hard.”
At times, the daylong effort resembled the feel of “Home Improvement,” the TV series popular in the 1990s. Her garage was brimming with activity, with power tools scattered there and in the backyard, along with ladders, paint rollers and brushes and other equipment.
The makeover was part of a broader effort by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Upstate New York Chapter’s annual MS Service Day of doing projects to help those with MS who need help maintaining their homes. Ceccarelli was among 20 people across upstate New York who were selected for the assistance.
This weekend, volunteers also performed mini-makeovers on six other homes in Erie, Niagara and Allegany counties.
Joanne Schiffhauer of Orchard Park was one of those volunteers pitching in at the Ceccarelli home. Schiffhauer, 37, was diagnosed with MS three years ago.
“It feels great to be able to give something back to someone who can’t do these things,” said Schiffhauer, who noted that shortly after she was diagnosed, she sought help through the Multiple Sclerosis Society and has been active with the local chapter ever since.
“Multiple sclerosis is unpredictable,” she said. “One day, you may feel great, and one day, you may not. The hard part of the disease is it may not look like you have MS.”
The rate of diagnosis in upstate New York is about double the national average and second only to Seattle. The house projects are considered an ideal way for the community to help its own.
“It’s an opportunity for the community to give back and help its neighbors that are in need,” said Christy Missico, a senior campaign manager with the upstate chapter. “Multiple sclerosis is more prevalent here and people feel good when they can help someone.”
Ceccarelli said she became more limited in what she can do since falling down some stairs two years ago, when she broke her thigh bone.
“They’ve done such awesome work. You should have seen it before,” Ceccarelli said from her kitchen table. “I feel so helpless just sitting there, because I want to do it.”
Jeremy Tyler of Orchard Park also helped guide the work at Ceccarelli’s home, and the company he works for, 84 Lumber, donated the materials used for the garage siding and shed. Sam’s Club also contributed to the project, provided food, and sent a team of four workers.
“It’s awesome to be able to help her out. It makes you feel good,” Tyler said.
Those seeking help or wanting to learn if they could be eligible to receive assistance can obtain information through the society’s regional website at www.msupstateny.org.