Onalaska neighborhood helps resident repair wheelchair ramp and deck through donations

Onalaska man keeps his independence with help from family, friends and neighbors

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) – Neighbors have a knack for coming together when someone needs help. That’s the case for one Onalaska man who needs some assistance getting around.

Neighbors helping neighbors carries a certain beat. Ben Martens’ Onalaska home needs a little TLC.

“Working on Ben’s house trying to get the deck repaired,” said Nathan Korger, who is helping repair Martens’ deck.

Korger sees to it the work gets done on time.

“It’s important to him,” Korger said. “Gotta have it done by Friday.”

The project is not for looks. It’s how Martens gets in and out of his home.

“It’s making my house much more accessible,” Martens said.

The deck is no longer safe. It’s hard for Martens to get around every day. Just a stroll down the hallway requires extra effort.

“I’m proud of my house and living on my own,” he said.

Martens has lived on his own since 1995, with the help of his community. They came through a little more this time.

“I’ve got amazing friends who are willing to help me out when I need it,” Martens said.

Korger said the deck is about 20 years old.

“We’re trying to get the boards replaced with some nice materials that were donated,” Korger said.

A GoFundMe page raised close to $17,000. Martens’ bathroom needed work, and his hallway needed an expansion so he can roll into his bedroom a lot easier. The only thing his friends disagree on are the colors they wear proudly on Sunday.

“Oh yeah big time,” said Martens, proudly taking ownership of his Vikings memorabilia stapled all over his home.

His message to Packers fans, he said with a smile, is that he feels sorry for them. This Vikings fan has a special connection to the Minneapolis Miracle.

“That was on my birthday,” Martens said. “January 14th.”

That’s also the same day the Vikings won a divisional playoff game on an unlikely catch as time expired at the end of the game. Martens’ friends support him even though he pulls for the wrong team.

“Oh no, I cheer for the right team,” Martens said.

This project for Korger means more for another reason.

“This one’s special just for family-wise, too,” he said.

Korger is married to Martens’ cousin. They both learned that today.

“It’s a cool experience,” Korger said. “Small world.”

Martens is more than pleased with Korger’s work.

“It’s been awesome,” Martens said. “He’s doing a great, great job.”

This deck wouldn’t have made it much longer.

“One more winter,” Korger said.

Korger won’t need to worry because of the beat of hardworking friends and family.

“I’m just speechless,” Martens said.

The sound you hear is the beat of this neighborhood’s heart.

“The community’s great,” Korger said.

Korger said in the future they’ll place a roof on Martens’ deck so he can go outside in any kind of weather.

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