Two Harbors resident Cheryl Sundstrom’s front porch needed to be replaced. The front deck was pretty, but it had holes, sagging areas and dangerous steps.

“In fact, my friend fell on those steps last year,” Sundstrom said. “It had a really pretty railing, but nothing was to code. It’s an older house, so we had no idea when it was built. It was here when we moved in six years ago.”

This week Sundstrom’s house was one of six Age in Place projects that Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity (WLSHFH) volunteers tackled in the Two Harbors area.

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.

Age in Place works with older adult homeowners to support their efforts to safely maintain their homes as their needs evolve. Homeowners retain independence and a renewed connection with their community through this three-way partnership, according to Habitat Executive Director David Clanaugh.

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This pile of wood used to be Two Harbors resident Cheryl Sundstrom's front porch, but thanks to some help from Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity's Age in Place program, volunteers are building her a safer entryway. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
This pile of wood used to be Two Harbors resident Cheryl Sundstrom's front porch, but thanks to some help from Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity's Age in Place program, volunteers are building her a safer entryway. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

“They say that a thousand dollars of repair work like this, on average, saves about $7,000 in medical expenses,” Clanaugh said. “And it’s not just for the homeowner, but it keeps their visiting circle of friends safer and keeps her able to go out the front door and engage with the community.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the construction project was well underway. A small team of volunteers from local churches and Wells Fargo had withstood the rain from the previous day to tear out the old porch.

Sundstrom said it was bittersweet to look at the gaping hole where her porch used to be.

“Because I found my husband on that front porch when he passed away this February,” Sundstrom said. “We got 10 inches of snow the night before, so even after I got back from the hospital, I could still see his imprint. So every time I walked out that door, it was like I could still see him there.”

Sundstrom hopes the new porch will help her to continue to move on. She’s also enjoyed the chance to have people around her house while the construction was ongoing.

“Just being around more people is exciting,” Sundstrom said. “I’m so thankful for all the volunteers who are willing to come out and help with these projects.”

Volunteers from the Two Harbors Stanley LaBounty factory came to help with the construction and presented the WLSHFH with a $4,800 donation of DeWalt tools such as a miter saw, hammer drill, finish nailer and jigsaw.

Volunteers from Stanley LaBounty presented the Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity with a donation of tools valued at $4,800 to help complete the Two Harbors area Age in Place projects. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
Volunteers from Stanley LaBounty presented the Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity with a donation of tools valued at $4,800 to help complete the Two Harbors area Age in Place projects. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

“This is one of our favorite annual projects,” said Mike Kaczrowski, director of operations at Stanley LaBounty. “We take a lot of pride in being involved in our communities and we never struggle to recruit volunteers to come work with Habitat for a few days.”

Clanaugh said the company has made tool donations to various Habitat projects for the past three years, which helps, in turn, keep the Habitat volunteers working safely.

Other volunteers are coming from Bassett Community Church, Wells Fargo and the Two Harbors Curling Club. Bethlehem and Emmanuel Lutheran churches are hosting lunch for the volunteer groups.

Community Partners supported WLSHFH by connecting the program with applicants and spreading community awareness.