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Project Elevation in need of volunteers, materials

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 28, 2012 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated March 29, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.

The Rev. Eli Sauseda sits with Robert and Dora Escobar on Day 1 of Project Elevation, Faith Family's volunteer community project, which includes an extreme home makeover for the Escobars.

Only a few years ago, Robert Escobar was a strapping volunteer firefighter in Port Lavaca. But three years ago, he was diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

As the disease progressed, the able-bodied Escobar was confined to a wheelchair. His wife, Dora, a Walmart employee, became the sole income earner for the family.

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that progressively prohibits muscle movement and often leads to total body paralysis before the patient dies.

The Escobars' home on Justice Drive in Port Lavaca, was purchased as a fixer-upper before the diagnosis. And Escobar planned to restore the single family residence before losing his ability to walk.

Enter Faith Family Church's Project Elevation. For the past week, more than 300 volunteers have committed 10,000 man hours to community restoration projects around the Crossroads.

The Escobars' house made the cut for a complete home makeover.

"We kept hearing about this guy who needed help in his home, so we sent a few guys over there to look at the stove and plumbing," said Faith Family Church's Rev. Eli Sauseda, who also serves as Project Elevation organizer.

Even though the Escobars live in Port Lavaca, they drive to Victoria every Sunday to attend Faith Family, Sauseda said.

Preliminary inspections of the home determined the home wasn't livable, Sauseda said. The plumbing was outdated, the stove unfixable, and mobility within the home was limited for a handicapped person.

"We were like, 'Are you kidding me?' Here's this burly guy who's committed 18 years to his community fire department, and they've never once asked for help," Sauseda said. "We just decided to gut it."

On Saturday, the Escobars' home was dismantled piece by piece, and for the next week, Faith Family volunteers are rebuilding the home from the concrete slab and struts.

On Good Friday, Sauseda said the construction on the home will be complete, and fully furnished by Ashley Furniture Homestore.

The Escobars are staying with family in Port Lavaca until the April 6 completion. Then, limo service for Robert and Dora will be provided to their new home.

Sauceda said the rebuild expenses were about $109,000, which included labor and materials, but the church has yet to raise all the money needed to complete the home.

"We're about $9,000 short. We're still accepting donations," Sauseda said.

Volunteers also are needed for the completion of the project, especially 8 a.m. Saturday at the Escobars' home, 2011 Justice Drive.

"This is really turning into something. The heart of this project is to expand it in the next two and three years to include people outside the church," Sauseda said. "The whole thing is just so cool."



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