400 have chipped in to construct the home for the paralyzed robbery victim.
By ELISE FRANCO
Vindicator staff writer
YOUNGSTOWN — Joe Kaluza’s wait is almost over.
Don Murphy, of Donnell Ford and a member of the group helping build Kaluza a new home, said they’re expecting to present the house to the family Dec. 13.
“The weather hasn’t set us back at all,” Murphy said. “We’re on schedule.”
Kaluza, the former manager of KFC on South Avenue, was shot by a robber March 24, 2008, as he left the restaurant to make a bank deposit. The injury left Kaluza a quadriplegic.
Murphy said volunteers spent Thursday and Friday hanging drywall and putting siding on the house, which is on Ivanhoe Avenue five houses down from Kaluza’s current home.
And though those tasks will be completed by the end of the weekend, Murphy said the team didn’t think they’d have enough volunteers.
“We were struggling to get drywall workers, and then an angel walked on the site and asked, ‘What can I do?’” he said. “That’s the way this whole thing has been.”
Rich Wyant, who is the project’s drywall contractor, said he’s worked with Murphy on past projects.
“When he calls, I go,” he said. “It’s a done deal.”
Wyant said he felt it was important to volunteer his skills because Kaluza deserves it.
“The sad thing is this guy got a raw deal,” he said. “He’s an honest, working man, and when this stuff happens people around here feel a sense of responsibility.”
Since the groundbreaking Sept. 30, Murphy said more than 400 people have volunteered time, money and food in the project. He said the construction is estimated to cost about $300,000.
“This house is made with love,” he said. “That family is going to feel love as soon as they step inside.”
Wyant said he’s met many people while working on the house who are volunteering but in need themselves.
“A lot of these guys are out of work. You can hear some of the conversations they’re having about their utilities being shut off,” he said. “To get people showing up to work for free when no one’s helping them ... What you’ve got here is the real deal.”
Murphy said he hopes a new home for the Kaluza family will offer a new start.
“I’m a father, and I couldn’t imagine not being able to go into my child’s room to say goodnight. Joe can’t do that right now,” he said. “That’s a part of what we’re giving him.”
The landscaping will be completed this weekend, Murphy said. And workers will begin painting and trim work Monday.
“We’ve got so much going on,” he said. “The whole community has come together for this.”
Kaluza’s sister Anna Fitzgerald, who co-organized a fundraising drive to build the family a new house, said most of the money will be used to purchase special needs equipment for the house.
She said a lift to get her brother in and out of his chair, an environmental control unit and a special bath tub will cost about $40,000. About $15,000 will be left over.
That money will go in a trust for the upkeep of the house, the family and the children, Fitzgerald said.
Joe and Lisa Kaluza have two special-needs children, Tiffany, 13 and Josh, 22, who will each get a room in the new home. Josh now lives at Youngstown Developmental Center but visits his family every other weekend.
Fitzgerald said she’s happy with the house progress. “It’s been wonderful,” she said. “It’s coming along a lot faster than we anticipated.”
The family is still accepting donations at The Kaluza Project, P.O. Box 8, North Lima, OH 44452.