<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=730207053839709&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Skip to the main content.

4 min read

Sunny Days with Man's Best Friend

Sunny Days with Man's Best Friend

As the warm sun starts melting the remaining snow and spring weather finally graces us with its presence, we all want to be spending more time outside. Being outdoors brings with it a lot of health benefits – it lowers blood pressure and reduces stress, helps improve sleep, and can improve overall mental health and wellbeing. This year, John will be spending plenty of time outside on his new accessible deck with his Manchester terrier, Sinbad.

John's dog, Sinbad, in a bat costume for Halloween.John found Twin Cities Habitat’s A Brush with Kindness program a few years ago. After he started experiencing significant back issues that affected his mobility, the Veterans Administration provided John – a proud Navy veteran who served in the early 1980s – a wheelchair. Many homes require modifications to accommodate wheelchairs, so after getting some phone numbers from Anoka County, John called around to a few places before discovering our home repair program. The repairs on John’s home were made possible in part by a Healthy Homes grant from the Minnesota Department of Health, and A Brush with Kindness also partnered with Rebuilding Together Minnesota. While there was a delay in starting the work due to COVID-19 safety measures, John was excited when it came time for the project to begin in August of 2021.

The Rebuilding Together crew came out to his home to do work on some odds and ends outdoors, provide a new coat of paint for his home, and make sure his deck was safe and secure. The deck was too old to just repair, since it was sinking into the ground, so Rebuilding Together Project Manager Tom Pfannenstiel and the volunteers tore the deck out in only an hour! John was so impressed by the dedication of this group of volunteers—all of whom were at least 70 years old.

One of the first things A Brush with Kindness did was work with a subcontractor to pour a new concrete driveway out front, which replaced the dirt path that had been there before. John says that it makes the winter so much easier with his wheelchair, and he has a friend that helps shovel the driveway for him.

Over the course of the next two days, the Rebuilding Together built a gorgeous deck – larger than the old deck – in no time at all, including a ramp that’s easy and comfortable for John to navigate with his wheelchair. They also installed latticework underneath the deck so curious little Sinbad (and other local critters) couldn’t poke around below.

While working on the deck, some volunteers from A Brush with Kindness, along with Twin Cities Habitat Site Supervisor Mart Viirand, came out and painted his home. “I came out, and looked around, and next thing I knew my house was blue! They worked so fast.” They also painted his shed a matching color.

The deck was all set up and done, and John says “It’s just so beautiful, it’s huge out here. I’ve had people coming by and admiring how they did the deck and everything, how it looks so pretty, and how the house looks so nice. They got everything done – they even put a new cover over my water outlet that goes into my trailer, and fixed a few things out back. They cleaned up out here so nicely, and even got rid of some of the junk I didn’t need anymore.”

One of the volunteers was even nice enough to take his dog for a walk! “Everybody was so nice and helpful. The people that were working on the house were so nice – Sinbad just loved everybody. He thought he was in charge of everybody.”

After the crews finished up, John thought to himself that he’d need to figure out how to build a gate, so he took a few parts that were used to help build the aluminum ramp to make a couple of sliding gates so his dog couldn’t get out – but just a few days later someone from Habitat returned! John thought Site Supervisor Mart was just there to check in, but there were still a few things left to finish on his home. Some more volunteers came out later that day, put a sealant on the deck, and Mart installed new gates for the two sets of steps and the ramp.

John really enjoyed meeting all the volunteers and the staff members from Rebuilding Together and A Brush with Kindness. He was so impressed by the work that when people see his home and asked how it got to look so nice, he’s sent them along to Twin Cities Habitat.

“I’d love to thank them so much. I appreciate every bit of work they did. They couldn’t have done a better job. God bless every one of them, for everything they did, right down to walking my dog and everything to help me. If there was something I could ever do, I’d do it for them. I want to thank everyone, from America (former ABWK Program Coordinator) to everyone who did the painting and heavy work of moving stuff around and cleaning up my yard, it looks so nice. I appreciate every bit of work they’ve done here. They do God’s work for people like us.”

John's eagle sculpture on the deck.Soon after the project was complete, John started putting his own personal touch on the exterior of his home. He inherited a life-sized eagle sculpture from his parents, and after his sister-in-law (an artist) repainted it with weatherproofing, he installed it on his deck, so now any relatives who visit the area know right where he is.

An old neighbor also gave him a Fallen Soldier flag that’s out front, and he’s planning to put a flagpole in the yard out among the trees, which will include his dad’s POW flag.

These days, John’s working with Anoka County to get the interior of his home updated now, including widening the doorways so they can accommodate his wheelchair, fixing up the bathroom, and making the kitchen more accessible. He’s looking forward to potentially having his home finished by the end of the year.

For now, his deck provides a warm, relaxing respite from day-to-day life. One he gets to enjoy with Sinbad whenever he wants.

“Every time I go out there I smile every time, they did such gorgeous work. I enjoy every minute that I’m out there. I can bring my wheelchair right outside and enjoy the sunny weather when we have it. If anyone drives by and is in the area, they can stop by any time and enjoy it with me. I’d love to shake their hand and thank them in person.”


As of March 2022, A Brush with Kindness is no longer accepting applications for Home Repair projects. Moving forward, our Home Repair resources will be available to clients by referral only from a limited number of partner municipalities and agencies. If you are seeking assistance with home repairs, please see our home repair resources here.

Home Repair Resources

Sustainability and Decarbonization at Twin Cities Habitat

Sustainability and Decarbonization at Twin Cities Habitat

Guest Blog by Mike RobertsonA Brush with Kindness Program Manager, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

Read More
Everything You Need to Know for a Great Gala!

Everything You Need to Know for a Great Gala!

Are you ready for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity's biggest party of the year? Our Hard Hat & Black Tie Gala is this Saturday, May 20, and we...

Read More
A Brush With Kindness a

A Brush With Kindness a "Real Gift" To Senior Couple

When John and his wife Linda take a look at their house now, they are amazed by the many improvements they see thanks to the repairs done by Twin...

Read More