Habitat for Humanity usually helps families build homes, but in a pilot project begun last fall, Meg Klingelhofer got permission from the Waldo County Habitat for Humanity board of directors to try out a project that would benefit an entire community.

The Palermo Community Center badly needed a new disability access ramp. Klingelhofer sent out a design engineer and an architect with disability ramp experience to design the project and prepare a materials list. This step was delayed because the Community Center was just installing a water line from its new well, close to where the ramp was going in.

Carpenter Sam Cantlin headed up the project and picked up the materials, which were paid for by a donation to the Community Center. Cantlin and several volunteers worked until winter closed in, and then finished the project June 3.

By July 1, plantings and decorations were in place and the Palermo Community Center held a festive grand opening of the access ramp, featuring a processional celebration song led by the Great ThunderChicken Drum and joined by Sandy Mathieson in her wheelchair, Meg Klingelhofer, Connie Bellet, president of the Living Communities Foundation, and special guest and donor Carolle-Ann Mochernuk.

Also in the processional were board members of the Living Communities Foundation, Palermo Food Pantry volunteers, friends and neighbors. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, guests toured the community garden, enjoyed snacks and cold lemonade, and relaxed in the grape arbor.

"I'm so grateful to be able to come back to the Community Center," Mathieson said. Now everyone with mobility issues or traveling with small children and strollers can access the Community Center with ease.

A commemorative plaque was donated and installed by Dennis and Laura Sullivan of Jefferson, which expressed appreciation for the donation of the ramp materials in the names of Paul Kueter and his widow, Carolle-Ann Mochernuk. The couple had a long and illustrious career playing four-handed piano concerts together, featuring everything from Rachmaninoff to Gershwin. Mochernuk still teaches and tours worldwide, even though she is in her early 80s.