James Hopkins has faced many obstacles in his life.
The most recent sequence included a boating accident in 1992 that resulted in a broken back and other lingering injuries.
The 45-year-old earned a certificate in computer-aided design from Anne Arundel Community College but was laid off a few years ago. And he recently saw his mortgage soar to $2,200 a month and narrowly avoided foreclosure.
Yet it was only recently that the 1986 Annapolis High School graduate decided to seek help — he needed repairs on the Annapolis home where he's lived in since 1990.
Last weekend, he got help in the form of about 25 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy, who arrived at his house to help perform parts of a renovation project. The midshipmen were joined Nov. 2 by members of Community United Methodist Church; other groups helping the effort have included members of Johns Hopkins Hospital's health care staff, personnel from Fort Meade and volunteers from Anne Arundel Community College.
Hopkins — who served two years as a private first class with the Maryland National Guard — said he was extremely grateful for the help.
"I never expected to have this much work done," said Hopkins, as contractors from American Remodeling worked on his roof Wednesday.
The work began after Hopkins was put in touch with Barbara Cupp of Rebuilding Together Anne Arundel County, the local chapter of a national organization that — as its website states — "provides critical repairs and renovations for low-income homeowners across the United States."
Cupp, executive director of the Severna Park-based chapter, learned of Hopkins' needs after he was referred through Habitat for Humanity. Cupp organized donations and other support from local contractors, and organized the stream of volunteers who have made their way to Hopkins' home.
Most of the volunteers show up on weekends, while professional contractors do specialized work during the week.
When the midshipmen came Nov. 2, they worked on landscaping and demolition, helped rebuild a ramp that runs from the driveway to his front door, cleaned out the garage and tackled a wet basement — the remnants of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
"There isn't a better way to spend a Saturday morning than getting fired up to work with our company mates and help out someone who needs it," said Midshipman 2nd Class Charles Lauer in an email. "I hope our contribution made a difference to that project, and we look forward to participating in more."
"The midshipmen took charge of the project right from the start and really worked hard," said Maj. Carrie Stocker, 7th Company officer at the academy. "It's very rewarding to see their leadership skills shine through, especially when it's for such a wonderful cause. They are already looking forward to the next project."
"I hope our contribution put a smile as big as ours in [Hopkins'] heart," added Midshipman Peter Guo.
The volunteers were part of the Midshipmen Action Group, according to Miriam Stanicic, community relations director in the Naval Academy's Office of Public Affairs.
On a tour of the two-story house Hopkins showed off some of the repair work done to the circa-1920 Sears & Roebuck home where his grandmother lived from 1964 to 1990. Upgrades have included work on the kitchen floor, bathroom, roof, steps to the upstairs, paint indoors and out, rewiring and repair of leaky pipes.
"He now has a wooden laminated floor so his wheelchair goes smoothly," Cupp said.
"It had fallen into disrepair," she said of the house. "He is a handyman, but it kind of got away from him."
Cupp said Hopkins' house is one of two current projects being carried out in Anne Arundel by Rebuilding Together. The other is in Glen Burnie for a veteran — volunteers are lined up for Nov. 16 to tackle work on his driveway and other projects.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun