For years, single mom Jennifer Dyer has struggled to hoist her 21-year-old daughter up the stairs of their two-story home in south Atascadero.
Her daughter, Jocelyn Dyer, has Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting women almost exclusively, and she’s completely dependent on others to care for her.
This year, Cal Poly’s PolyHouse team chose the Dyer household for its home renovation project, with the goal of making it easier for Jennifer and Jocelyn to live their lives.
PolyHouse is an annual humanitarian home-building project led by industrial and engineering manufacturing professor Roya Javadpour.
Never miss a local story.
For 12 years, Javadpour has led the program, which involves planning and coordinating a major renovation project to help families with economic and physical hardships, including those with physical disabilities.
Their repairs will soon allow Jocelyn the use of an electric lift that elevates her to the second story, lessening the burden on her mother.
The young woman also will be able to take a shower in an enlarged, walk-in space so her mother doesn’t have to lift her over the ledge of a tub.
“I think we’re all affected by this,” Javadpour said. “It not only builds confidence in my students to work through construction challenges, they’re exposed to major obstacles that people face. I often tell my students this is one of the most unique experiences they’ll ever have.”
The student project entails a deadline-driven quarter in which they raise funds and solicit materials, set a project schedule, divvy up duties, and execute major repairs.
The group has raised more than $100,000 in money and materials.
The construction takes place over six full work days in which students start about 7 a.m. and work until 10 p.m., sometimes later.
The students this year have broken up the project into two weekends, with the culmination and reveal to the Dyer family on May 31. The Dyers are living with Jennifer’s parents, who live down the road, while the PolyHouse team overhauls the house.
Students are doing much of the work, with the guidance of professionals voluntarily lending a hand with some of the more technical tasks.
“With any project like this you have the challenge of trying to allocate resources, stay on budget and stay on schedule,” said Kyle Feist, the PolyHouse project manager. “At times, we’ve had to lean on local experts, local electricians who have consulted with us and contractors here for framing.”
Feist said the plumbing in the bathroom has been a significant challenge to make sure the pipes are hooked up properly. Also, the electrical system in the home needed significant revamping.
The crew tore up the carpet and will replace the downstairs flooring with a laminate while adding new carpeting to the upstairs.
The backyard is being landscaped with a small section of new grass to replace a large lawn, and a larger area of drought-tolerant landscaping. The yard also will have an outdoor baseball playing area for Dyer’s 12-year-old son, Jayden, who “walks, sleeps and loves baseball.”
The home also will be newly painted.
Dyer said her daughter — who weighs about 75 pounds — doesn’t have the ability to talk and can’t control her movements.
But Dyer believes Jocelyn understands what’s going on around her.
“She laughs at jokes, her eye gaze is very personable, she’s a lot smarter than people think,” Dyer said. “… The engineering students have been so dedicated and happy to help us. They’ve spent a lot of one-on-one time talking to me about what kinds of changes to the home will best suit our needs.”
Ashraf Farassati, the project’s kitchen and painting manager, said that it’s “an honor” to give back to the community.
“You don’t always know how good you have it in life,” Farassati said. “And then you hear stories like this one. It really motivates you to help out.”
Fellow participant Farzam Forouzandeh said he can imagine “how excited the family will be” to see the project for the first time.
“I think people could start crying,” Forouzandeh said. “I get impressed when other people cry. Tears start coming for me, too.”