Silver Bay resident Cindy Tackett had a goal: to finish the work her late husband, James "Arlen" Tackett, started on their house.

Arlen had finished removing the paint from one of the four sides and rebuilt the side staircase before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last June.

"It was a labor of love," Tackett said. "He mainly chose this house because he saw there was red cedar siding underneath the ugly green paint. He’s been working on the house for a long time before he found out he had cancer."

Tackett's friend recommended she contact Habitat for Humanity for help finishing her husband's work. This week, her house was one of five Age in Place projects Habitat volunteers tackled in Silver Bay.

The program partners with aging homeowners to allow them to retain independence by tackling projects such as rebuilding outside stairs, installing railings, cleaning and repairing gutter systems, scraping and painting homes and grading concrete walkways.

Greg Hanson, of Thrivent Financial, strips away layers of paint and varnish on the side of Cindy Tackett's house in Silver Bay this week. Hanson is one of several volunteers who worked on Age in Place projects in Silver Bay last week. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
Greg Hanson, of Thrivent Financial, strips away layers of paint and varnish on the side of Cindy Tackett's house in Silver Bay this week. Hanson is one of several volunteers who worked on Age in Place projects in Silver Bay last week. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

"Studies show that if you invest in safety and access for seniors, you save greater Medicare costs in the long run," said David Clanaugh, Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity executive director. "You're avoiding broken hips and similar types of fractures, which allows people to stay in their homes and stay connected to their communities for a longer time."

Homeowners are involved in the process by providing refreshments and snacks to volunteers and pay a sliding scale partnership fee for the work done. The projects are also supported by donations from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Thrivent Financial, North Shore Area Partners and Silver Bay area churches.

Habitat for Humanity volunteer Bob Jokela works on building front steps for Cindy Tackett's Silver Bay home. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
Habitat for Humanity volunteer Bob Jokela works on building front steps for Cindy Tackett's Silver Bay home. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

Some homeowners, such as Tackett, also choose to get involved directly with the repairs.

"They taught me how to use the orbital sander so I’ve been sanding the siding," Tackett said. "I've asked them to teach me everything so I can do the work. I'll have to finish up the garage on my own, so I'm grateful for the instruction."

Volunteers have been using Arlen's tools to build the new front staircase and grind off the green paint from the siding. Tackett said she pictures Arlen looking down from heaven on the work.

Cindy Tackett's house in Silver Bay is receiving an upgrade in the form of new set of front steps and newly stripped siding. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
Cindy Tackett's house in Silver Bay is receiving an upgrade in the form of new set of front steps and newly stripped siding. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

"I know he's up there rooting for them," Tackett. "It's been such a blessing to have them here."

Clanaugh said Habitat hopes to return to Lake County annually to complete Age in Place projects. In September, the organization will take on a series of Age in Place projects in Two Harbors.

Families interested in partnering with Habitat or groups interested in volunteering should call 218-722-3875. For more information, visit wlshabitat.org.