Just twelve inches can be a game-changer.

Grab bars come in all sizes, but even the smallest makes a big difference for those in need.

“Some of the homeowners — especially the seniors — they light up like Christmas trees

when they get their grab bars,” says Volunteer Tom Reinmiller. “It’s just nice to see the

assurance they get from this.”

Tom is a member of Heaven’s Helpers, a group of volunteers based out of Mountain Park United Methodist. Together with Home Repairs Ministries, the two groups have been installing grab bars throughout Gwinnett County.

The grab bars come free of charge as part of the Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ SeniorBSafe initiative. Costs for grab bars were powered by an

Assistance to Firefighters Fire Prevention and Safety Grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But installation? That’s another story.

Well over 100 homeowners needed help, and the waitlist grew. That’s when Gwinnett

County Fire & Emergency Services recruited Home Repairs’ volunteers to help.

But a chance meeting at a grab bar installation helped add more volunteers.

Home Repairs’ Executive Director Mark Wolfe installed a grab bar at the home of Mount

Park’s Reverend Emeritus Charles Barns. That’s when Rev. Barns suggested Mark talk with Heaven’s Helpers volunteer Phil Slaton.

“Our partnership with Heaven’s Helpers exemplifies our vision of Repairing Homes and Hearts as Churches Serve Together,” says Mark Wolfe.

It’s a partnership that’s worked out well for Gwinnett County. Over the last year, volunteers with Heaven’s Helpers have installed 89 grab bars in 42 homes. Home Repairs volunteers have similar stats.

Man in yellow shirt installing long grab bar

Through the efforts of all of our volunteers we have been able to install over 200 grab bars.

But numbers don’t capture the whole picture.

“Every single one of these [installs] was different as far as the process and the homeowner,” explains Tom.

Volunteers install grab bars of various sizes and in all different locations, depending on what the homeowner needs. And each project tells a story.

Tom remembers one homeowner, so happy to get grab bars in her bathroom.“

She told us, ‘This is just great. The steps from the kitchen into the garage are my only problem now.’ So, we looked at her wall and put up a 30-inch bar to cover those three steps,” he recalled. “And, you know, I think she was happier about that than all the other grab bars.”

woman smiling holding grab bar on front stoop

Grab bar funding from the county is ending now, but the impact remains.

“The joy in their faces was a thrill for us,” added Tom. “It’s nice to help these folks who have spent all these years building a life. They deserve time to enjoy it.”

Homeowners are safer because of the grab bars and what volunteers have done, says Mark.

“The grab bars help seniors ‘age in place’ and remain independent longer,” he added. “Not only do we get to install the safety equipment, but often we get to hear their stories and pray for them.”

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