BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Most people probably associate Habitat for Humanity with new home construction, but the nonprofit organization also serves seniors in their existing places of residence.

It’s called the Aging in Place program and it’s dedicated to helping people with mobility and accessibility problems live more safely and comfortably, with things like handrails, balance-assist grips and access ramps.

“I can’t climb steps anymore and I fall down a lot,” Patricia Puskarich said, “because there’s no ball joint left [in her hip].”

Puskarich has lived in Oildale most of her life – 30 years in this house on Esther Drive – and before that in the house next door, where she grew up. She attended seventh and eighth grade at Standard School with writer Gerald Haslam, businessman Jim Wattenbarger and musician Merle Haggard – who for a time was her next-door neighbor.

But now she needs a little help.

“She has accessibility challenges,” said Rebecca Robinson, construction manager for the Golden Empire chapter of Habitat for Humanity, “and so we’ve come out this morning to build a ramp to get her into her house safely.”

In her role, Robinson – a Marine Corps veteran and a general contractor– supervises the construction of homes for families, built from the ground up. It’s part of the organization’s goal of fighting generational poverty. But that’s not all Habitat for Humanity does.

“We have the Aging in Place community that always has a lot of challenges,” Robinson said. “We do home repairs and that sort of thing.”

It’s made possible in part thanks to grants from Kern Health Systems and others. Habitat also has access to funding for low-income housing through the city of Bakersfield, which enables them to do larger-scale work like roofing and water damage repair.

Puskarich’s ramp came about thanks to her former church pew-mate, John Eastridge, a Habitat volunteer.

“Pat reached out to me last month because she’s getting a hip replacement,” Eastridge said, “and she wanted to know if Habitat could build her a wheelchair ramp.”

“I never knew them to do things like this,” she said. “All the people I know who have worked for it have been those kind of giving, generous, caring people.”

And Habitat is in the market for more giving, generous, caring people.

“No skills required, nothing special,” Robinson said. “Just come up with a good attitude, and we are gonna put you to work.”

Interested in helping? You can donate money, work on a construction crew, or work at the Restore thrift shop on White Lane. This year promises to be a busy one for the organization.”

“We have so many exciting projects coming up in 2023,” Robinson said. “We need to do about 250 repairs.”

That includes the construction of a new house in Taft, at 223 Calvin. It’s in the beginning stages now with excavation and foundation work.

Whether it’s big jobs like an entire house, ground up, or smaller jobs like the one in Oildale this week, the need is there. 

Pat Puskarich’s mobility issues are a little bit better today. 

Call Habitat for Humanity at 661-861-8449 for more information.