Home Sweet Home
Wisconsin Knights offer help and friendship to a stroke victim struggling to finish building his house
By Cami Berthiaume
LaVerne Pottinger, grand knight of Quad County Council 9546 in Birchwood, Wisconsin, was searching for opportunities to bolster the council’s culture of service when he noticed a partially finished cabin outside town and learned about the man who lived there.
The rudimentary cabin was home to a local man who had started to build a house on the land — close to the family farm where he had grown up — when he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side. Since 2017, he had been living alone, without running water, in the unfinished structure, essentially confined to a 12-foot-square room.
Though he had lost the use of his left arm and needed a brace on his left leg to walk, the man retained a positive attitude and independent spirit.
“He was a very proud farmer and wanted to do everything himself,” explained Ron Derousseau, financial secretary of Council 9546. “He’s paralyzed on his left side, but he claims, ‘There are people way worse off than me.’”
Nevertheless, Pottinger and other members of Quad County Council 9546 decided to ask if there was anything they could do.
“We asked him if we could help him at all, and he said ‘Yes, I think I’m ready to accept help,’” recalled Pottinger.
The Knights, with assistance from contractors and other members of the community, began rebuilding and finishing the home in September 2022. The team leveled the foundation, completed plumbing and electric work, and installed windows, siding, drywall and flooring.
Each member brought different professional skills and knowledge to the project, which aided its progress. Contractors working on the cabin largely offered their labor free of charge, and Council 9546 supplemented the man’s savings to cover the cost of building materials. The kitchen is now complete, and renovations continue in the bedroom and bathroom.
Best of all, a project that began as a practical act of charity has become an opportunity for fraternity and friendship: When a group of Knights from Council 9546 make their annual fishing trip in Canada in May, the man is going to go with them.
Derousseau hopes the council’s service inspires others to look around and see where they can give their time and talents. “If you’ve got neighbors that have projects,” he said, “let’s get them done!”
CAMI BERTHIAUME writes from Frindley, Minn., where she is digital content coordinator for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.