FS Remembers the Late Tonya Gunn and Helps Rebuild Her Family’s Home
For seven years, Facilities Services has partnered with Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago to help rebuild homes in the Chicago-land area in low-income communities for families from all walks of life. Families who receive the services must meet the organization’s requirement and submit a brief bio about who they are and the improvements needed to their home. These stories usually tug on the hearts of FS staff who volunteer and participate to get the job done.
FS has improved homes by making the front entry and exit to the back yard accessible for a Blue Island family where two members were using a wheelchair, replacing asbestos tiles in the basement of the home of a cancer survivor in the Austin neighborhood, removing a family of raccoons from an interior wall for a service member and his family also in the Austin neighborhood, and so much more for different families on the south side in the Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods.
Well this year, the sentiment is even more endearing because FS had the opportunity to give back to one of our own. The selected homeowner, Ms. Sandra Gunn, a 66-year-old widow is the mother of our late colleague, Tonya Gunn who worked in the work center until she was fatally shot in July 2014. Tonya’s 14-year-old daughter, Destiny, Loren (Ms. Gunn’s son), and Angel the family dog all share the home that Ms. Gunn has occupied for 30 years.
Meachie Holman, supervisor service center and Dana Bell, customer service representative welcomed the opportunity to honor Tonya’s memory so they joined more than a dozen other FS volunteers this year. Knowing the challenges Ms. Gunn faced, Holman encouraged her shortly after Tonya’s death to apply for the Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago program. Happy that Ms. Gunn was selected, Holman stated, “It came to pass and it means the world to me.” After working together and being so close knit for more than 15 years, both Bell and Holman considered Tonya a sister. Bell talked about how great it was to come together with everyone for a great cause. She stated, “The photos we found of Tonya while we were cleaning up was the best part for me.”
When asked what it means to have her late daughter’s colleagues provide such a service for her family, Ms. Gunn was in awe when she said, “Four years later and she still resonates in the hearts and minds of people; I know Tonya would really appreciate this.”
Getting rid of all the many things stored in the basement was no easy task. Things were marked either “Keep,” or “Throw Away,” to facilitate organizing and decluttering. However, on Saturday, April 28, National Rebuild Day, Ms. Gunn couldn’t help herself and often stopped the crew from throwing some things away. When asked what would be most difficult to get rid of, Ms. Gunn mentioned the pool table. She admitted she can play, “but not as good as Tonya.” Members of FS trades disassembled the pool table prior to National Rebuild Day so the volunteers could manage to get it out to the dumpster.
The scope of work was led by Herb Mueller, supervisor residential properties shop, Barry O’Quinn, senior manager building envelope & campus trades, Joe Tomaselli, supervisor electric shop and Brandon Rux, manager grounds & landscape services. They ensured FS met the program’s requirement of making the home warm, safe and dry. Ms. Gunn is especially grateful for the electrical work completed by FS’ electricians. The lighting in the basement is much improved. She stated, “Before it was dark and dreary and makes you not want to be down there.” Now, Ms. Gunn is able to enjoy being in the basement whether she’s doing laundry or watching T.V. Not only is she happy about the electrical work, but she also feels safe with the new locks installed on her doors; she stated that she can open the doors now without hurting her hands.
Because of the skilled laborers and generous volunteers in FS, another family, an extended family to some, can enjoy the many upgrades to their house and have a sense of peace knowing that their home has been made safer.
By Tiffany M. Grant