Bright orange traffic cones and a slew of vehicles marked Bob Beavers’ home south of Garrison throughout the day on Wednesday, Aug. 28. As this year’s recipient of help from the Grand Casino Mille Lacs’ Lend a Hand program, Beavers saw a number of renovations performed across the whole of his property. Todd Christopherson, vice president of facilities at the Grand Casino, explained the origins of the Lend a Hand program, as well as how Beavers came to be this year’s recipient.
The Lend a Hand program, Christopherson explained, first got its start 15 years ago. “We were asked as a department what we could do to help our community,” he said. At the time, “Extreme Home Makeover” had been a popular television program. “With the trades we’ve got, carpenters, painters, electricians and housekeeping associates,” he continued, “We thought, ‘Well, we can’t do an extreme makeover, but we could play handyman for a day to make a difference in somebody’s life.’”
That first year, the casino found a community member they felt was deserving, and ten workers went out to provide work at the house. The program has continued yearly and now has 20-30 casino associates who contribute to the work. “We don’t have any lack of volunteers,” Christopherson noted. “We have more people volunteer to help each year than we need.” Around ten local businesses have also begun to contribute to the work, including Nor-Son, Sherwin-Williams and Jim’s Mille Lacs Disposal. Donations towards the completion of the project also came in from such businesses, including Sherwin-Williams, John Otis Electric and Builder’s FirstSource. “The program gets bigger and bigger every year,” Christopherson added. “We just might get to the point of Extreme Makeover.”
This year, the program had around 16 nominated applicants, which were eventually narrowed down to Beavers. “They all need the help,” Christohperson said, “so we try to narrow it down to who we can do the most good for in an eight-hour period with 20-30 people.” Later, he added, “We’d like to help everyone, but we just can’t.”
The work at Bob Beavers’ home included putting up new siding, painting the house, replacing windows around the property, and revamping the landscaping. Over the two days prior to the renovation, casino associate John Otis (who also does works locally as an electrician) had gone in and replaced Beavers’ electrical systems.
Tracy Klinedinst, communications specialist with the Grand Casino, explained that the need for work at Beavers’ place had first been noticed when Otis had come to do electrical work at the house at an earlier date. Otis had reached out to Beavers’ friend, VFW volunteer Karen Miller, and suggested that Beavers be nominated for the Lend a Hand program. Otis and Miller had then helped organize Beavers’ nomination.
Over Lend a Hand’s 15 years, Christopherson said the work they offer has yet to be turned down. “We plan to continue as long as we can, and we hope the program gets bigger and bigger … I’ve watched it get larger since the beginning.”