Tillamook’s Ramps and Rails program lends helping hand By Max Kirkendall

Sometimes all we need is a helping hand.
Six months ago the Neaves family was looking at a heap of hardships. The loss of a job, facing foreclosure on their home, repossession workers coming to take the car and on top of everything, their roof was beginning to cave in.
David Neaves, husband and father of five kids, is a Navy veteran who served 14 active duty years, including four deployments overseas and two years in Korea. While in the Navy, Neaves accumulated a variety of injuries including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that made everyday life much more difficult.
“With my service related injuries I haven’t been able to maintain a steady job,” David said. “My wife’s been really working hard helping us try to make ends meet.”
David met his wife Renee in high school and married her shortly after. Ten days after their wedding day, David was deployed in the Navy and over the first eight years of their marriage, they only spent two years together.
“It’s tough because when you get home you really have to rebuild that relationship all over again,” David said. “There were times when we were like two strangers meeting again for the first time.”
Fast-forward 27 years and the two are still together, living in Tillamook and their bond is stronger than ever. However, David said they faced tough times over the past two years, which led to his breaking point six months ago after he had lost his job due to his service related injuries.
“I basically felt worthless,” David said. “I was denying the fact that I had PTSD so I was constantly angry. I was angry at myself, angry at people I’d meet and having a hard time socializing, so I was drinking real heavy and dealing with it in an unhealthy way.”
Facing a multitude of life’s challenges, David was called in by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to evaluate his injuries after being 10 years removed from the Navy. During the evaluation, doctors asked him a variety of questions, which is when David said he emotionally broke down.
“I didn’t realize I was that bad but there are a lot of veterans out there like me who don’t know how to talk about things like that,” David said. “It was getting to the point where I was just doing dumb stuff and I couldn’t understand why I was so angry.”
But from that point on, everything seemed to change for the Neaves family. David was granted 100 percent VA disability, Renee has started a new job and David was able to finally take steps to getting back to his old self.
“We really didn’t know what was triggering it, but we knew there was something because there are certain things in life that you suppress and you don’t know how to express,” Renee said. “Now it’s easier for him to talk to me, open up and express those things that frustrate him.”
As life began to find some stability for the Neaves family, they were still faced with the issue of the failing roof. A few months ago, David said his kids noticed water bubbling up behind the paint on the ceiling. The leak in the roof had gotten so bad that it seemed like it was raining in the house according to David.
Knowing the issue needed to be addressed, the Neaves family was examining their options on how they would be able to afford the expensive project. After being approached by a community member, the family learned about a Tillamook Habitat for Humanity program called Ramps and Rails, which supports seniors, people with disabilities and veterans.
“Our whole goal is to make sure people are safe in their homes,” Tillamook Habitat Executive Director Cami Aufdermauer said. “Low-income folks are not able to just go to the bank and get a loan to pay for repairs, so we finance it all and they pay us back.”
Thanks to the Ramps and Rails program, the Neaves family is able to get that roof replaced with the help of Jesse Denning Construction, Rosenburg Builders Supply and William Sheet Metal Works, who donated an estimated $4,700 for the project.
“I’m really excited; it’s more of a relief than anything else,” David said of the new roof. “Habitat has really gone out of their way to try to accommodate us and get us into the program and make us feel like a part of their family. Just thinking about the piece of mind and comfort that it will bring my family means the world.”
David said the planning for the new roof lasted about two months and that it would only take a week to replace the old one. Despite being told they were accepted into the program, David and Renee both said they were trying to find out if there were other veterans out there who might have more of a need.
“We’re so used to giving, giving, giving and when you’re finally told that ‘no, it’s time to give back to you,’ it makes you feel like all that hard work that you put in to everything you’ve done is appreciated,” Renee said. “It’s amazing that they have a program like this that can help people who really need it.”