Davenport woman with severe arthritis will enjoy yard for first time thanks to volunteers

DAVENPORT, Iowa-- A Davenport woman will soon be able to step foot in her backyard for the first time thanks to some volunteers

A team of volunteers has been hard at work making her home more accessible.

"She has never been able to get down here into her own backyard," volunteer David Trees said.

That's because the homeowner, Caroline Vernon, has rheumatoid arthritis, making it difficult for her to get around.

"It's wreaked havoc, and you learn not to take anything for granted," she said.

Vernon can't get down into her backyard because there's a steep hill leading there from her backdoor.

She just moved into her home a little over a year ago. This is the first home she's ever been able to truly call her own. She's on a fixed income but decided to become a homeowner when her rent kept climbing.

She never thought she could afford to buy a house. But she said she qualified for a down payment assistance grant, making it all possible.

While the house is great because it's all on one level, she said there are some things that could be improved.

"I had no stairs to go down, never been in my backyard because I never had any stairs to get into my backyard," she said.

Due to her arthritis, it was also hard to get into her bathtub and there were small things around the house that needed to be updated.

That's when Rebuilding Together stepped in. It's a non-profit that modifies and improves homes, often for low-income and disabled homeowners.

The Rebuilding Together volunteers and a group from Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church started work Thursday and hope to finish up this weekend.

They've been building a special staircase that has shorter, wider steps than normal so Vernon can make her way down. There's also going to be a special hand-railing that her arthritis-stricken hands can grab.

In addition, they cut out a portion of her bathtub so make it a walk-in and added hand railings.

David Trees, the house captain for this Rebuilding Together project, said they've found small things that need improvements.

They're repairing two doors that are stuck shut, re-supporting the deck and giving things a new coat of paint.

"We're just sort of thrilled to be able to provide that," Trees said.

Vernon said she's excited to have family over to fully enjoy her home.

"It's like having Christmas in July," Vernon said. "I'm so thrilled. I can't wait."