Steven Ward is all things a hero should be. He is strong, determined, hard-working, compassionate and driven. He started his life with tragedy, losing his mother during childbirth. Steven spent his childhood in Detroit, raised by his adopted parents. Living in the projects of Detroit was not an easy existence but the love and unwavering support from his family, especially his father, would lead him on his remarkable journey.
At 18 years old Steven joined the Army. He was sent to Vietnam and quickly found himself in combat. After only 6 months, his talents and intellect were quickly noticed and he was chosen to be a member of the Army Rangers, an elite group of the United States Army.
Already a rising star at nineteen, Steven was selected to enter Sergeant School. Quickly, he was named “Top Drill Sergeant” and was promoted to Staff Sergeant by the age of twenty one. “My father always told me that he didn’t care what I did, as long as I was the best at doing it,” says Ward. “He was a hardworking and honest man. When he told me that being the best mattered, I believed him. I made the decision to be the best at everything I did. I still live by that motto today.”
Steven remained a respected and decorated member of the Army for more than 20 years. He ended his career as a Senior Infantry Advisor for the State of Maryland and Washington D.C. After retiring from the military, Steven set his sights on a new career and pursued his love for cooking. “One of my favorite memories from my childhood was being in the kitchen with my father,” says Steven. “Often the simplest things in our lives are the most cherished.”
After getting to know Steven, it comes to no surprise that he pursued his second career with as much fervor as he did his military career. He quickly became the Executive Chef at George Washington University’s Medical Center. In addition, he went back to school earning both a B.S. in Culinary Management and Hotel and Restaurant Hospitality. Over the next few years, he held several top positions including one at The Ohio State Medical Center.
Then, the unthinkable happened…Steven had a stroke.
Only in his 50’s and his life was changed forever. The stroke left Steven paralyzed on the left side of his body and unable to walk and function independently. “I spent one year in the hospital recovering and another three years in nursing homes,” says Steven. “In the beginning the nursing homes were necessary for my rehabilitation, but for the last 18 months I was only there because my home was not accessible. I didn’t have a home to return to. I knew I couldn’t bear to live in a nursing home for the rest of my life. I had lost so much from the stroke and was determined to not lose the home that I deeply loved as well.”
Our team at Creative Renovations met with Steven and listened to his story. He expressed how he had already met with a long list of builders and remodelers, all of which told him that they could not renovate his home to accommodate the accessibility that he would need. His existing home did not have ramp access, the doors and hallways were too narrow, his bathtub was no longer an option for him and his sinks, appliances and beds were too high for him to use. In addition, Steven was told that it would cost too much money and that there was no financial help to assist him. They all advised him to move and start over in a new home. Determined as ever, Steven says that dreaming about returning to his home is what kept him alive while recovering.
Creative Renovations was founded for stories just like Steven’s. Our mission is to assist individuals whose lives have changed or are changing slowly; maybe because of an accident, a stroke, or simply for those who are aging and want to stay in their homes. “There wasn’t an organization out there doing this important work. For roughly 14 years we were the “go to” provider for housing. We were routinely asked if we could help with needed accessibility renovations for people whose mobility was changing. As we started to provide these services to our tenants, we also noticed a growing demand in Greater Columbus. There is a need for a trusted partner who could minimize the fear and confusion around construction, keep the project at affordable prices and use new specialized products,” says Patrick Rafter, President and CEO of Creative Housing|Creative Renovations.
Over the last 6 years, the Creative Renovations team has completed over 300 renovations every year. Each project is different and the needs are determined with the help of the families living in the home. Our projects range are as simple as a ramp or grab bars, or as complex as a fully automated “voice activated” home for people with extremely limited mobility. “Everyone has a right to freedom and maximum independence while living in their home. We operate fully by this belief, even when tackling the most challenging projects,” says Rafter.
Today, Steven is back in his home. He still works daily on his rehabilitation in hopes of making a full recovery. “For the first time in my life, I am able to personally dig deep and find out what I am all about. I work hard every day to reclaim my independence; not in a nursing home but my home. Thanks to all of my friends at Creative Renovations. I have my life again. More than anything, this journey has shown me that yes, my life has changed and it is very different but – it is not over.”
At age 62, Steven Ward still plans to complete graduate school and earn his Ph.D.
Steven, we salute you!