Operation Open Doors helps disabled veterans by making homes accessible

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by HOLLY SCHOENSTEIN | REPORTER Stow -- Operation Open Doors is reaching out to military veterans, firefighters and police offers in Northeast Ohio who are permanently disabled as a result of an injury they sustained on or since September 11, 2001 and offering to help make their homes more accessible for daily living. Stow resident Aaron Hall, 38, is the executive director of the organization that was founded in 2006. The charity is a division of labor union The Associated of General Contractors of Ohio, Akron division. A member of the AGC of Akron came up with the idea to start the charity. "Our members loved the idea and wanted to help as many veterans as we could so we started the process of setting up the not-for-profit 501(c)3 charity Operation Open Doors," Hall said. "The AGC of Akron wanted to find a way to thank the veterans who have served our country, and helping the disabled veterans get around in their homes seemed to be a great fit for our industry." Examples of home modifications include widening doorways, installing entrance ramps, remodeling kitchens and reworking bathrooms. So far the charity has completed one project, which was for Ashland resident Army Cpl. Josh Sommers, a 24-year-old 101st Airborne Division soldier who was injured by a grenade in Afghanistan. "We had two weeks to completely remodel his bedroom and bathroom to make them handicap accessible. Josh was being released from the [Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center], but his home had to be handicap accessible before he arrived," Hall said. And in 2013, the charity hopes to help one or two more veterans. "We are in contact with a family in the Akron area who may be in need of monetary assistance, he is a blind veteran whose spouse has cancer. Currently this is the only veteran we have been in contact with in 2012," he continued. The goal for 2013 is to help one or two veterans. "Since we operate on donations, we can only help until the money runs out, but we do not want to discourage anyone from applying. We are happy to try and help as much as we can," he said. During his teen years and early 20s, Hall worked as a residential and commercial carpenter for Ver-Dick Builders in Stow. Hall has a bachelor's degree in organization communication and marketing and advertising from the University of Akron. Over the past 12 years, he's also been the executive director of four other labor unions: The Mechanical Contractors Association of Akron Inc.; Construction Industry Development Board Inc., The Associated General Contractors of Ohio, East Central Ohio Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Association, and Akron, Canton, Mansfield Roofing & Sheet Metal Contractors Association. He runs the unions' board meetings, handles financial affairs and day-to-day operations, including collective bargaining. For more information about Operation Open Doors, to request an application for the program or to make a donation of money, time or materials, call Hall at The Associated General Contractors of Ohio, Akron division, at 330-237-1885 or mail an inquiry to 2181 Akron Peninsula Road, Akron 44313. Email: hschoenstein@recordpub.com Phone: 330-541-9428 SS veteran home remodeling a.jpg: COURTESY OF AARON HALL Operation Open Doors, an Akron-based charity that modifies the homes of disabled veterans of all kinds, made this Ashland home more accessible. This photo is of the bathroom of that home before the project was completed. SS veteran home remodeling b.jpg: COURTESY OF AARON HALL Operation Open Doors, an Akron-based charity that modifies the homes of disabled veterans of all kinds, made this Ashland home more accessible. This photo is of the bathroom after it was enlarged and modified. The bathroom tiled and outfitted with new fixtures. SS veteran home remodeling c.jpg: COURTESY OF AARON HALL Operation Open Doors, an Akron-based charity that modifies the homes of disabled veterans of all kinds, made this Ashland home more accessible. This photo is of the bedroom after hardwood floors and larger doors were installed as part of the project. SS veteran home remodeling d.jpg: COURTESY OF AARON HALL Aaron Hall, a 1992 graduate of Stow-Munroe Falls High School, is the executive director of Operation Open Doors, a charity that modifies homes of disabled veterans of all kinds to make them accessible. SS veteran home remodeling e.jpg: COURTESY OF AARON HALL Operation Open Doors, an Akron-based charity that modifies homes disabled veterans of all kinds, modified this Ashland home so that it's more handicap accessible. This photo is of the bedroom as it's being remodeled. The project also included installing tile in the kitchen and family rooms.

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