Lend A Hand To Provide Home Makeovers

Gratitude, wonder and joy are the emotions Brainerd residents Jennie Crowley and Bill Lakin experienced after their homes received much deserved makeovers from Grand Casino Mille Lacs’ Lend a Hand program.

Now in its tenth year, the program annually awards a one-day home makeover to an individual who meets criteria based on income, physical limitations, medical issues, and other challenges. A committee of Grand Casino Associates interviewed five nominees for the program and selected two individuals as 2014 Lend a Hand recipients.

Jennie Crowley

Jennie Crowley is no stranger to struggle. Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP) at an early age, she spent her early school years wearing visible metal braces.

“Growing up with CP has been challenging,” Crowley said. “I became the object of weird looks and pointed stares, but that only motivated me to remain positive and get the best of each day.”

On her nomination form, Crowley’s daughter, Amy Friis, said her positivity and generosity are the things she admires most about her mom.  

“My mom will help everyone else before her own needs, she is the most unselfish person I know.”

Crowley lived most of her adult life in an apartment setting. She was never truly happy living there because she wanted a backyard to call her own. So, she saved money and in 2008 she purchased her home. She loves home ownership, but wasn’t prepared for the constant upkeep.

“Because of CP, I have balance issues and am not able to be on a ladder for safety reasons,” Crowley said. “I would get help from friends here and there, but the work just kept piling up.”

She is beyond thrilled to be a recipient for this year’s Lend a Hand project. She often compares her situation and the worries she faces to constantly wearing a 50 pound backpack.

“Wherever I go, I have to put this heavy backpack on. I can take it off when I sleep, but the next day, my worries continue. This experience Grand Casino Mille Lacs is giving means I don’t have to stress so much.” Crowley said. “It’s like strong hands came and lifted that heavy backpack off of me.”

On Wednesday, August 27, volunteers worked to make sure her backyard was as safe as possible. They repaired and painted her deck, replaced boards, placed heat tape on her roof to avoid ice dams, trimmed her trees, removed a retaining wall, leveled out her sidewalk and walkway in the back, landscaped her entire yard, repaired and painted the shed, removed outside trash and built raised garden beds.

“This was an exciting project for us,” said Mike Nickaboine, vice president of facilities for Grand Casino Mille Lacs. “To see the joy on Jennie’s face with the improvements we made to her yard never gets old. We are humbled and honored to help her.”

Bill Lakin

When disaster strikes, you will most likely find Bill Lakin not far behind. This Vietnam Veteran has volunteered as the Executive Director of the Salvation Army for 29 years. He’s helped communities recover from Hurricane Katrina, floods in Hannibal Missouri and Minot, North Dakota, the Wadena tornado in 2010 and most recently with the flooding in Baudette, Minn. just two months ago.

While his commitment to communities is thriving, his health is not. “I have been in remission from bladder cancer for 9 months, but most recently, I’ve been hospitalized with a blood clot. I desperately needed a ramp for my home.”

“His request was a no brainer for us,” said Nickaboine. “He works tirelessly to show others the resources available that can better a person’s life – we are happy to provide a new deck and ramp to help make his life a little better.”

With the help of Nor-Son, Inc., Grand Casino Mille Lacs facilities volunteers built a deck and ramp and brought it to Bill’s home on Wednesday, August 13.

“Nor-Son was happy to help Grand Casino Mille Lacs fulfill this Lend a Hand project for Bill,” said Shawn Close, senior project manager. “It was the perfect opportunity to give back to someone who constantly helps others.”

Grand Casino Mille Lacs also enlisted the help of Wilderness Land Clearing & Mulching to clear a hazardous tree in the yard of Crosby resident Ron Martin’s home.

The casino received valuable assistance and donations from local Minnesota companies, including Nor-Son, Inc. in Baxter, Pro Build in Brainerd; Sherwin Williams in Baxter, Wilderness Land Clearing & Mulching in Fort Ripley, Rimm Masonry & Concrete in Hillman, Jim’s Mille Lacs Disposal in Garrison; and Grand Casino Mille Lacs’s facilities, food and beverage, marketing, and security departments.

The Lend a Hand committee includes Grand Casino Mille Lacs Associates Arlene Bentley, Mike Nickaboine, Corey Wind, Todd Christopherson, Craig Nass, Ray Kegg, Shirley Weyer, Dayna Pearson and Sarah Barten.

Additional Associates who volunteered their time to help Jennie and Bill include Christine Anderson, Bonita Austin, Nicole Furney, Yulan Robins, Robinn Bruckhoff, Art Johnson, Tom Trail, Jim Meister, Joel Molash, Quentin Moose, Nikolas Kadel, Mike Renfro, Cameron Wind, Jim Hutchinson, Curtis Neumann, Steve Borg, Steve Meredith and Brian Barnett.

About “Lend a Hand”

The Lend a Hand program was developed by the casino’s facilities department as a way to give back to the community. The committee receives nominations from Grand Casino Mille Lacs Associates, interviews the nominees, and selects the home makeover recipients.  This is the program’s tenth year.