Hed: Shamrock Builds Custom Home for Quadriplegic Man

The Pilot News

PLYMOUTH – Shamrock Homes in Plymouth already has earned its reputation for quality housing: The locally owned and operated company earned The Best of Marshall County Award in 2009 from Pilot News readers for manufactured homes.

Now, it’s becoming nationally known for providing that customized quality for those in true physical need, as well.

The business founded by the late Pat and Kay Flynn in 1969 and now operated by their children was approached in 2009 after a tragic accident left a Shady Valley, Tenn. man in his 30s a quadriplegic. He had been on a job site and fell from a considerable height, landing on his head. His condition meant that his older-model mobile home at the top of one of the tallest hills in the area no longer worked for him.

Flynn said that without a real home that suited the new physical condition, officials were prepared to place the man in a motel “forever.”

Flynn explained, “It’s less expensive in many cases to build a new home than to retrofit an old one, and you can get exactly what the person needs. With a new home, you can build to exact accessibility.”

Fortunately, the man found some advocates and, working through government FHA and USDA programs, he was granted funding for a home that could accommodate his new physical situation. Not only did doors need to be wider so that both he and his caregiver, his brother, could get through them at the same time, but more dramatic changes would be needed.

That’s where Keith Manuel and Tom Flynn of Shamrock came into the picture. Flynn said the floor plan the man and his family wanted was turned down by other manufacturers the family and government had approached. It wasn’t just that the home, a 1,215 square-foot two bedroom, two bath model, had to be barrier-free from front to back, or that lower than standard cabinets were required in the kitchen (more about that later).

Flynn said the big red flag the family put up was that they needed a ceiling-mounted trolley system that the caregiver could place the man in to move from room to room and/or from one area of a room to another. What was the big deal?

“No normal home could support the home without reinforcement,” Flynn said. That reinforcement requirement meant that extra support had to be built in so that the ceiling could take the weight of the trolley system, itself. Reinforcement meant a custom-made rafter.

“We knew what to do,” Flynn said of the process of reinforcement. “We’d done it before.” Company representatives also had attended the Abilities Expo in Chicago last year for the latest information. Their work in Tennessee will be featured in the organization’s spring magazine.

Shamrock said yes to the project because the company provides customization as part of its normal operation. Shamrock began in 1991 to offer a line to specifically serve specific needs. The installation of the trolley system and extra support simply meant adding something new to the Shamrock portfolio of quality work. Working with Tennessee Mobility and others, Shamrock included pocket doors that slide out of the way, an electrical box that was positioned lower than normal, recessed thresholds and more.

Flynn said the kitchen cabinets were lowered because the client’s therapists and physicians believe that he could regain use of his upper body in the future. Both the client and his family planned for that while working with Shamrock.

The building began in October last year and the man and his brother were moved in before Christmas. “The timeline was made this unique. The timeline was very accelerated,” Flynn said, adding that the subcontractors were essential in meeting deadlines for the family. Even more amazing, he noted, was that “most items were special ordered” and still arrived in time for the happy holiday.

“The whole construction took only four weeks,” Manuel said.

“And it was great that we got it (the contract),” Flynn explained, “because no one else would do it.”

Flynn will talk about the project and the challenges of operating a small business when he speaks before a class of students enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame April 1.

“I really don’t know what I’ll tell them,” Flynn only half-joked. “Mostly, I guess, I’ll give it to them straight. No romantic notions, just as it really is.”

Sometimes, “how it really is” can provide the difference for a customer between a quality life and one of desperation