In the Meridian Township just east of Lansing, Michigan, one firefighter is going above and beyond the call of duty to help one of his regulars.
Neal Langford, 52, is a quadriplegic who suffered a devastating spinal cord injury in a swimming accident at the age of 26. A few years ago Langford purchased a larger van that could better accommodate his wheelchair, but the new vehicle doesn’t fit in his garage and frequently got stuck in his driveway this winter. Meridian firefighter T.J. Booms responded to the calls, but after one incident in February he decided there was something more he could do for his neighbor.
“When I drove away from Neal’s house that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about what would have happened if he were stuck out in the driveway and couldn’t make a phone call to get help. What would he do?” Booms said.
This summer, Booms, his captain Bill Richardson, Battalion Chief Ken Phinney, and other members of the fire department are organizing a construction project to build Langford a new garage; they hope to finish the garage in August.
“So, most two car garages always go on a concrete slab which is usually flush with the ground,” says Mike McCort, Owner, Amish Mike. “When we sell a larger building we draw it on a 3D design program, showing it from 3 different angles. Once these pictures are approved, we then order drawings which usually consist of 9 pages. These pages will consist of elevations, foundation and more. Being this precise and thorough is important especially in a situation such as this.”
The 24×30-ft. garage will give Langford covered parking, ensuring that his van won’t get stuck in the snow when the winter comes back around.
“I think it’s pretty amazing, first that they are actually doing it. It’s going to be a big plus for my life, to be able to function a little easier,” Langford said. “I’ve never had the benefit of parking inside a structure, let alone having some cover.”
Captain Richardson is a licensed contractor, and the construction crew also benefited from an outpouring of support from the Meridian Township community. The Township waived all building fees, Home Depot donated the building materials, and other local businesses stepped up to provide additional labor and supplies.
The fire department helps township residents during emergencies, but the effort to help Langford is part of a department initiative to help their community in non-emergency situations, too. The ongoing project is called the Meridian Fire Community Outreach Fund.