Matt Lasley | GC News-Gazette

Matt Lasley | GC News-Gazette

A local resident with a debilitating disease may continue to be cared for in her own home thanks to a cooperative effort between a number of organizations.

Leitchfield resident Tonya Smith was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in August of 1999, shortly after she graduated from high school. Nevertheless, she owned her own home and worked for a number of years.

That changed when her health began deteriorating in November of 2012. Her mother, Marsha Smith, said Tonya Smith started becoming weak around that time, and, on March 8, 2013, she woke up and could no longer move.

She was also diagnosed with Bell's palsy on the side of her face.

"It's affected everything from head to toe," said Marsha Smith, Tonya Smith's mother who receives a Michelle P. Waiver grant for pay for 40 hours per week to stay home and care for her.

Now 37, Tonya Smith has been bedridden for nearly five years and lives with her mother. She must attend weekly medical appointments at the wound clinic, in addition to occasional out-of-town appointments.

She must be transported to these appointments by Grayson County EMS, and, until recently, the doors to her home were too small to wheel her hospital bed through. To transport her, EMS had to lift her from the hospital bed to a gurney.

"My worry was always, if my house caught fire, how would I get my girl out?" Marsha Smith said.

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Additionally, Tonya Smith is also on life support, and, if the home ever went without electricity, she would be unable to breathe.

When she went down, her mother said, Tonya Smith's doctor wanted her to be placed in a nursing home, due to the constant medical attention she requires; however, her mother opted to care for her herself, likely extending her lifespan significantly.

Additionally, thanks to two recent home improvements, made at no cost to the Smith familly due to another grant, have alleviated the aforementioned issues.

The cooperation of multiple organizations allowed double doors to be installed in the wall behind Tonya Smith's bed so that she can be more easily removed from her residence, and, to ensure that she does not go without her life support, a Generac generator, which automatically supplies power to the home when electricity is either shut off or goes out, was installed.

Without the generator, if the electricity went out in Tonya Smith's home, she would have to be transported to the hospital for life support. Not only does this open her up bacteria, it also means her mother does not receive her Michelle P. Waiver grant (the grant ceases during any of Tonya Smith's hospital stays).

The improvements were made possible through a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank, through its Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund.

The fund's namesake served as Vice President for Housing and Community Investment for Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) for more than a quarter of a century.

The program was created in her honor to help special needs families be able to continue living in their own homes, according to FHLB Cincinnati Vice President of Public Affairs John J. Byczkowski.

"This is exactly what we intended it for," said Byczkowski of the improvements to Tonya Smith's home.

The funds are profits set aside throughout the year to give to FHLB's member banks to distribute as grants. Each year, FHLB gives out about $30 million in grants.

FHLB is a cooperative owned by its numerous member banks, including The Cecilian Bank, which, in partnernship with Wabuck Development Company, applied for the grant for the Smith home improvements.

April Bowman, with Wabuck Development Company, said many more people in the Grayson County community could also benefit from a Federal Home Loan Bank grant if they qualify.

In order to qualify for one of the $7,500 grants, a person must be a homeowner, be income eligible, and have either a resident in the home who is elderly or special needs, Bowman said.

The grants are not intended to be used for comprehensive home repairs; rather, they address specific needs in the home to ensure individuals with disabilities may continue to live in their home.

This year, the grant money was gone within two hours, and, typically, Wabuck and The Cecilian Bank award up to 10 grants per year, Bowman said.

Applications are submitted around the first of June each year, so Wabuck is expected to begin collecting information for the next application process in March of 2018.

Individuals who would like to be considered for a grant or know of some of someone who could benefit from a grant are encouraged to contact Bowman at Wabuck Development Company.

Matt Lasley | GC News-Gazette

Above is the Generac generator installed at Tonya Smith's home to ensure power continues running to her life support system.