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Community heroes help Groves couple

GROVES — Employees with Texas Gas Service and Lowe’s worked fast and furious under dark skies to construct a wheelchair ramp for a family in need in Groves on Thursday.

Shannon O’Connor with TGS carefully measured and cut pieces of wood while Lowe’s employees Prashant Kumar, Brett Meador and Troy Talbot used power tools to screw board into place outside the 32nd Street home of Bobby and Mary Derise. The Derise’s have had a tough year with Bobby’s numerous health problems including the amputation of both of his legs below the knee.

Texas Gas Service employee Shannon O’Connor saws wood for a wheelchair ramp to benefit a Groves couple on Thursday. Mary Meaux/The News

Texas Gas Service employee Shannon O’Connor saws wood for a wheelchair ramp to benefit a Groves couple on Thursday.
Mary Meaux/The News

The couple’s previous wheelchair ramp was steep, short, and did not include handrails.

“It went from the door to the ground just past the hedges,” Bobby Derise said. “It wasn’t so bad coming down the ramp but with the steepness and my weight in the wheelchair made it difficult for her to push me up the ramp. She has a bad back and neck.”

Groves residents Bobby Derise, left, and his wife Mary are the recipients of a new wheelchair ramp courtesy of volunteers from Texas Gas Service and Lowe’s through United way of Mid and South Jefferson County. Mary Meaux/The News

Groves residents Bobby Derise, left, and his wife Mary are the recipients of a new wheelchair ramp courtesy of volunteers from Texas Gas Service and Lowe’s through United way of Mid and South Jefferson County.
Mary Meaux/The News

About two months ago Mary was helping push Bobby up the ramp and the wheelchair began to slip sideways. Bobby was able to hold on to a post as the chair was tipping. Luckily, one of their friends was driving by and saw the situation and stopped to assist.

Knowing the situation with the ramp was dire; Mary Derise called United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County for help.

Janie Johnson, executive director of United Way, said they work with various companies who seek service projects and Texas Gas Service had shown interest in helping. From there Johnson reached out to Lowe’s who agreed to be a partner in the project and donated materials and manpower.

Companies who participate in the community projects not only benefit form the tam building experience but assist the community as well.

“This is an amazing opportunity for everyone,” Johnson said. “We’re very excited to have a small part in it.”

Rhonda Jones, administrative assistant with TGS, said it felt wonderful to be part of the project and give back to the community.

While the workers were busy measuring and building the ramp the Derise’s saw inside the home and discussed the ramp and their lives.

“This ramp will make such a difference for me,” Bobby Derise said. “I’ll be fitted with prosthetics next May then I’ll receive therapy and learn to use the legs.”

A Type 1 diabetic since the age of six, Bobby Derise suffered a stroke last year, underwent heart surgery and received a pacemaker, is battling blood clots and thyroid problems.

“The regimen I’m on, we don’t stop until midnight then we’re back at it at 6 a.m.,” Bobby Derise said.

His main caregiver is his wife of 23 years, Mary.

“Before this we were dancers and he was one of the best jitterbug dancers in southeast Texas,” Mary Derise said.

The Derise’s are also dealing with mounting medical bills as well as the emotional side of Bobby’s health condition.

“Between having a stroke and losing my legs I’m determined to walk again even if it’s just to the restroom or to the car,” he said before becoming quiet for a few seconds. “It’s not just a person dealing with the loss of limbs, it’s also about the individual who helps with the burden. As a diabetic I don’t know how long things will hold on; diabetes has such a degenerative effect – the kidneys, the vision. Hopefully by this time next year I’ll have my mobility back and return to normalcy again.”

E-mail: mary.meaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews