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Keeping His Own Home Is Closer To Reality For Jimmy Gray
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 10, 2004

CARLSVILLE, WISCONSIN--Things may be looking up for Jimmy Gray, in spite of reports to the contrary, Inclusion Daily Express has learned.

Many people came forward last April to offer their help when they learned that Gray might lose his boyhood home and be forced into an institution.

A little more than three months later, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that those promises of help had apparently vanished.

"We've got $500 in donations. That's just not enough to make an impact here," Susan Hilsabeck, Chair of the Door County Board of Health, said on August 2. "I got calls from people wanting to donate time and money, but that hasn’t materialized."

The Board voted unanimously to reject a request for $9,400 to help fix up Gray's home so he can continue to live independently.

Gray, who has a developmental disability, contacted local media after his house was condemned as a health hazard by county health officials. Non-profit agencies, volunteers, anonymous donors and even county staff responded immediately by offering to provide a new septic system, plumbing, paint, appliances, and bathroom fixtures, and to remove all trash.

Those efforts were at first met with resistance by Gray, 37, who was worried people would throw away things that they assumed were trash, but that were important to him.

In late May, Gray signed an agreement giving permission for volunteers to, among other things, replace the septic system, install new plumbing, and put up new walls.

At the same time, however, there have been more calls for demolishing the home.

The request for $9,400 came from County Attorney Grant Thomas and Cindy Zellner-Ehlers, a developmental disabilities coordinator with the Department of Community Programs. The amount equals the cost of destroying Gray's house. Thomas and Zellner-Ehlers reasoned that if the county was already set to spend the money, it might be wiser to invest it in Gray's independence rather than pay much more for him to be housed in an institution later on.

Supporters insist the project will be pulled off, anyway. When it is completed, it could be a prime example of how the public sector, private donations, community volunteers and local businesses can come together to help a fellow citizen -- and save tax-payers money in the long-term.

Mark Morrison, Program Director for the Door County Department of Community Programs, told Inclusion Daily Express that Gray's advocates are now looking at alternative funding sources.

"It's just another bump in what is becoming a long and winding road," Morrison said. "We are convinced that this will happen, if only by sheer will."

As of Friday, a well had been drilled and the water was ready to be hooked up, Morrison explained. The septic system was also underway. Both were required to meet the health department's primary conditions for Gray to live in the house.

"We are moving forward on this," said Ken Jeansomme, who is handling Gray's case through Specialized Services LLC of Sturgeon Bay. Jeansomme predicted that the roof and exterior painting would likely be done soon.

"I'm sure we'll get it done so he will be able to continue to live where he wants to," Jeansomme said.

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