CM Cares takes on new construction projects to benefit those in need

Each spring, the CM Cares program at CSU provides services to those in need of construction assistance, to improve mobility and ADA access to their homes.

This year, CM Cares is tackling several projects, including creating wheelchair-accessible ramps, building new entryways, and renovating a basement to house a family of seven. The program is housed in the Department of Construction Management.

Morris project

John and Arianna Morris are a young couple living in Windsor who were selected by CM Cares to have their home renovated for accessibility. Morris, an alumnus of the CSU College of Liberal Arts who created a suspension system for wheelchairs called QuadshoX, was paralyzed from the neck down at age 18. Near the end of his high school career, he and his friends built a snow ramp for snowboarding and he landed on his head, compound-bursting disc C5 and fracturing C4 and C6.

In the Morris project, students are constructing a deck that wraps around the house to the backyard. The deck will feature concrete walkways and automatic doors leading to the home, so Morris can easily access his backyard.

“My wife Arianna and I have always dreamed of owning our home, but adding accessible features is a huge financial struggle,” said Morris. “I love being outside – it’s one of the little things that keeps me going.”

The project mentor for the Morris project is Mike O’Reilly, an assistant professor in the construction management program. O’Reilly has been involved with CM Cares for seven years and has advised one project each year.

“All I do is draw up the plans and guide the students through the project,” said O’Reilly. “But I can’t lie, I enjoy getting in there and working with them too.”

O’Reilly supervises a group of students in the department who volunteer to complete the project. The volunteer students are generally undergraduates who are close to finishing their coursework and graduating, and they are overseen by students in the department’s Leadership Course, CON464, which is an elective that students need to apply for. Once those student leaders are accepted into the course, they manage the projects and mentor CM Cares volunteers while working with construction industry professionals, who mentor as well.

‘Apply what I’ve learned’

This year, Dre Jackson, a junior in construction management, is one of three leaders of the Morris project.

“In our coursework we have several guest speakers talk to us about different opportunities to be involved, and I was excited to be able to apply what I have learned in class while being able to give back to my community,” said Jackson.

Every year, the CM Cares program receives applications from residents up and down the Front Range who request renovations to their home. A committee led by CM Cares Coordinator Khristy Jesse, Assistant Professor Loren Funk and Instructor Nick Rubino visit each site and decide which projects will be best.

“We receive an overwhelming number of applications each spring and wish we could complete every project,” Jesse said. “We make our selections based on several things, but it comes down to the ability to make a big impact on those in need, along with taking into consideration what the best opportunities will be for students to apply their coursework through this service-learning opportunity.”

Since CM Cares started its first project, it has completed more than 24 projects, at an estimated value of $1.5 million, to help the community with projects that benefit families and adults with disabilities, or nonprofits that serve the greater community.

Below is information about the other projects being completed this spring.

Mochan family project

CM Cares yard sign

The Mochan family experienced a tragedy in which both parents passed away unexpectedly and left three school-age children behind. The children now reside in Fort Collins with their aunt and uncle. Their home currently cannot comfortably accommodate all of the children. CM Cares student volunteers are completing a finished walk-out basement and adding three bedrooms, a living room, mudroom and a complete remodel of the bathroom.

(Editor’s note: In February 2019, B+M Roofing of Colorado donated a new roof for the house.)

Philips family project

With five children and a dog, the Philips family is in desperate need of extra space. CM Cares is building an additional bathroom onto the back of the home, along with a back porch. Since the family has one son in a wheelchair, both the porch and the bathroom will be handicap-accessible.

Jaxon’s Bathroom

Jaxon Wynman is a first-year high school student with cerebral palsy. Wynman’s morning routine can be difficult in his family’s small bathroom, which hasn’t been renovated in over 40 years. CM Cares will be renovating the entire bathroom, adding an accessible shower, changing table and more practical cabinetry.

The Department of Construction Management is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.