SILOAM SPRINGS -- Kind at Heart Ministries partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Benton County to help a senior couple maintain their independence.

The partnership is a pilot program the two organizations are trying to launch full-time, according to Kind at Heart founder Wayne Thomas. The two organizations would team up to make the bathrooms of seniors more accessible and easier to use, Thomas said.

Last year, Thomas reached out to Habitat for Humanity to inform them of the opportunities to help seniors in Siloam Springs, he said.

Thomas connected with executive director Cindy Acree who came over to Siloam Springs and told Thomas this was something she has always wanted to do with Habitat, Thomas said.

After coming together, the two organizations committed to do five bathrooms, he said. Kind at Heart and Habitat for Humanity began their work on the bathroom of Ken and Linda McCasland.

The McCaslands are an aging couple in Siloam Springs. Ken McCasland has bad knees, he said. Linda McCasland suffers from multiple sclerosis and a bad back, Ken McCasland said. The price for the new bathroom was estimated at being $5,000, Thomas said.

"They've been a blessing to us," Ken McCasland said. "I can step in without worrying about falling because I have a bar. Linda keeps a stool in the shower so she can sit down and (bathe) with the hand wand."

Volunteers for both organizations came in and pulled the existing bathtub out then repaired the sub-floor because it was rotted and upgraded the drain, Thomas said.

They took the old vanity out so the door could be widened, then the volunteers put in a shower insert a grip bar and a shower faucet and new vanity, Thomas said.

Kind at Heart in Siloam Springs partners with Habitat for Humanity of Benton County

Volunteers noticed the McCaslands did not have a fan in their bathroom so they put a fan in and then put in an outlet for the vanity when it was discovered the McCaslands had a power cord running across the door, Thomas said.

The bathroom was also repainted, Thomas said. The work was done in four days during the early part of January.

"Without community partners like Habitat and Kind At Heart working together, it's just too big of an animal," Thomas said.

For Habitat for Humanity, this is a project that is near and dear to the heart of Darren Swagerty, the community engagement manager, he said. Swagerty's father had one of his legs amputated due to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam, he said.

One of Swagerty's father's biggest fears was taking a bath or shower, so Swagerty took the time to bathe his father, he said.

"Yes, it sounds expensive on the face, but at the end of the day it is a tiny drop in the bucket to do something that is that rewarding for people to be able to live comfortably," Swagerty said.

Kind at Heart is the first organization Habitat for Humanity of Benton County has partnered with, Swagerty said. However, Habitat for Humanity is interested in partnering with other organizations.

For the McCaslands, the new bathroom is a dream come true. Linda McCasland said she is not scared to get in and out of the bathtub anymore.

"Previously I was having to step over the side of the tub, and it was very scary to me," she said.

Kind at Heart's initial contract with Habitat for Humanity ends in June, so the two organizations are ready to move on. Kind at Heart has three prospects for their next project including the McCaslands' neighbor who is taking care of a disabled daughter, Thomas said.

"The need is so big," Thomas said. "Long-term goal, we would like to be at a place where we're doing two of these a month, and so that's 24 a year, long-term goal."