VOLUNTEER PROFILE: Blindness doesn't hold back Idaho's Don Ashcraft
Who finds the humor in a blind volunteer trying to make sure light fixtures are working? That would be Don Ashcraft.
But it’s OK because Ashcraft is that blind volunteer, and he insisted his photo be taken as he made sure light fixtures were functioning well enough for the Silver Valley Fuller Center for Housing to put them to use either in their ReUse store or in homes for homeowner partners. Ashcraft thought that a blind man working on lights would make for a funny photo.
Of course, it wasn’t just a funny staged photo. Ashcraft actually was making sure the lights worked. He would feel for the heat from the light bulbs. It’s fitting, because since the late 1990s, Ashcraft has been a fixture and a source of warmth on builds by the Silver Valley covenant partner, which began as a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in 1991 and joined The Fuller Center for Housing in 2009.
Ashcraft, who is 55 and will celebrate his 13th wedding anniversary on June 11 with wife Judy, is a skilled woodworker who also repairs handles on the covenant partner’s tools.
Silver Valley PR Chair Judy Blalack describes Ashcraft as an inspiration especially to youth groups and as someone “who would rather be doing something than sitting around waiting for something to happen.”
Ashcraft recently took a moment to chat with us about his volunteer efforts.
Why do you volunteer?
Because I can’t get a 9-to-5 job, and I want to do something for other people of the Lord.
It’s been said you are particularly inspiring to youth groups who work with Silver Valley. Why do you think that is?
I like them. They like me. I’m a big joker and stuff like that. I have dentures, and just for fun I’ll kind of pop my uppers out and make funny faces and things like that. With kids, you can goof around, and they enjoy it and love it. If we’re working with a chop saw, I’ll say, “You wanna learn how to run a chop saw? If you do, I’ll teach you how to do it the right way. And if you have any questions, before you get hold of this, I want you to ask them. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. To me, the stupid question is the one you do not ask.” … They give me as much back as I give to them. If I can help a kid stay out of the drugs and alcohol, that’s one of my pushes.
What are your best skills?
I do it all. I’ve worked on the foundations. I’ve helped them get things lined up for the footings. I’ve worked on it from the ground up. I’ve even been on a roof a time or two, believe it or not. … The only job I cannot do is one I haven’t tried. If I’ve never done it, I’ll tell you that. And if I can’t do it, I’ll tell you that, too.
Can you describe your vision problems?
I have some vision, but it’s really limited. They finally had to put a name to it because they had to call it something. It’s affected me a lot like retinitis pigmentosa, RP. How I had it explained to me is if you draw a circle on a piece of paper and take a pencil or pen and go to stabbing toward the center of it, every little ink spot would be a nerve that was swollen and created a blind spot. It has taken out the central vision, and it kept going until it’s taken most of the peripheral, too.
How do you feel about people who have good vision, are able-bodied and have time and money who don’t volunteer?
Well, I think they’re handicapped more than I am. I feel that if you’ve got it and can do something with it, why not help someone else? I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ. And there’s a good story in the Bible about the Good Samaritan. … I feel like that if we can give to someone else a hand up or help them out, who am I to say no? Because if I help you out, I hope that someday you help someone else out.
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