Early Day of Caring effort sees sailors ramp up neighborhood

Navy Petty Officers Sean Woods (left) and Brian Popish build a handicap ramp for a home on Magnolia Street, as other Navy personnel do yard work and paint the home Friday.

For most of the week, they studied nuclear fission — prepping to be deployed on the seas tending reactors aboard aircraft carriers or submarines. Today they piled out of trucks around a small home in the north central community. The weapons were shovels, paint rollers, circular saws and hammers.

The objective: Build a wheelchair ramp.

The sailors were among some 2,000 students at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command Goose Creek who did an early run for Tuesday’s Day of Caring, working in neighborhoods across Charleston and North Charleston, joined by about 500 volunteers from the Air Force and community volunteers.

Friday is the only week day the sailors can be spared from training, and they make up about one-third of the 6,000 volunteers who will take part in 300 projects across the Lowcountry as part of the annual United Way effort.

"Pretty cool," said neighbor Tonya Ashley, as she watched the swarm of black t-shirts and blue camie pants take over a few homes in the neighborhood. "It's a great thing the people are doing something for somebody else. Seeing people out there working makes other people want to take care of the neighborhood better."

"It's a blessing," said Lisa Scott about the ramp being built for her mother, Juanita Scott, who has lost muscle and can't get around. "This way we can get her down to go to church."

In the Lowcountry, where the day is held in honor of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the military's part in the effort reverberates.

It's good to get out and work with tools as a break from the mental grind of studying, said Petty Officer Brian Popish as he sawed 2 by 4's for the ramp. But it's more. He was in high school in California when the planes slammed into the World Trade Center.

"Everybody remembers this weekend. It's a good time to do something good and give back to the community," he said.