Volunteers build wheelchair entrance for wounded veterans' house

Dozens of volunteers gave their time and labor to help veterans heal on Saturday in St Petersburg.

Volunteers with Bank of America built a wheelchair accessible entrance at the ABILHouse, 3228 39th Street North, a facility where veterans with traumatic brain injuries are learning to be independent again.

Without a wheelchair-friendly entrance, the ABILHouse staff has had to assist people off-site at VA hospitals in the past. The updates allow them to help more veterans in need of life and career guidance at the clubhouse.

"We have staff on site that can do counseling, help them with resume writing, career counseling, that kind of thing," said Diane Duncan, director of Service Source. "It's just a nice stepping stone. Instead of just going out and finding a job, they have more of a safety net here," added Duncan.

ABIL is an acronym for "Acquired Brain Injury Life." All of the veterans at ABILHouse have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) gained either in combat or civilian life.

"A lot of times, people with TBI don't want to leave their house. They're afraid for safety reasons," said Duncan.

The ABILHouse allows its members to practice tasks like cooking for themselves, using a computer to type or search for jobs, and with a new landscaped added along with the updated entrance, veterans will be maintaining the greenery, giving them an added skill for their resumes.

"I'm doing a lot better now. I like my job that I got right now," said Randy Adams, an army veteran who recently landed a job with Sears through the help of the ABILHouse and one of its counselors.

"She's been working with me, she's been meeting with me at the VA, she's been constantly in touch with me, asking me if I need anything," said Adams.

The ultimate goal at the facility is to help veterans regain confidence and control of their lives.

"I just see their motivation increases. They really like to be here. They like to talk to other people that are dealing with some similar issues, and they feel empowered to then go out and get jobs," said Duncan.

The wheelchair accessible entrance was funded by Raymond James and private donors.

The ABILHouse also assists people who are not veterans, but suffer with traumatic brain injuries.

For more information on ABILHouse, visit http://www.servicesource.org/abilhouse