Monday is supposed to be a big day for the residents of the McKinley Terrace apartments in Tacoma. For one tenant, it might be the first time in 2 1/2 months he’s able to leave the building.
The elevator in one of the complex’s buildings broke July 3, and the company that manages the 51 apartments has told residents it will be fixed Monday.
For 78-year-old Ben Bymers, who needs oxygen to deal with his lung disease, the breakdown has meant he hasn’t been outside his second-floor apartment in more than 10 weeks.
“I can get down (the stairs), but I can’t get back up,” Bymers said earlier this week.
“This is all I have now,” he added, gesturing around his one-bedroom apartment.
Mary Ann Hamilton, 79, lives on the first floor and uses a walker, like a fair share of the tenants in the three-story building in the 3200 block of East I Street. Dealing with the broken elevator has been tough, said Hamilton, who has had to carry her laundry cart to the second floor to do her wash.
“I have to pull it with one hand and pull myself with the other, one step at a time,” she said.
The property is managed by Bellevue-based United Marketing Inc. A company representative said no one was available for an interview Thursday or Friday.
The property receives federal Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidies. Spokesman Lee Jones said the agency is aware of the broken elevator.
“It’s my understanding that within a few days of the initial breakdown they had already gone out and begun the process of obtaining bids to do the work,” Jones said. “They happen to be dealing with a particularly old out-of-stock elevator.”
That means parts had to be manufactured and sent from the East Coast, said resident Peggy Roeder, 65.
She and her Pomeranian, Pepper, were on the elevator when it broke and dropped about one-quarter of a floor. She said she climbed onto the second floor of the building and then yanked Pepper out behind her seconds before the doors slammed shut.
Officials from the apartment and the elevator company immediately came to shut it down, she said.
In addition to living at McKinley Terrace, Roeder runs a local food bank, and every other Tuesday she and other residents have helped haul deliveries to residents on the upper floors.
“It’s been hard, but you know, we’ve all adjusted,” she said. “We just take more trips and lighter loads.”
Joan Reed, 76, can’t fully raise one of her arms, but she’s also helped with the food-bank deliveries.
“There’s a lot of good people in this building,” Reed said during a visit to bring Bymers a homemade bologna-and-cheese sandwich from her apartment down the hall. “I don’t have much, but I like the people here, so I help where I can.”
Mark Fuller, 48, doesn’t mind helping out with the deliveries either. But he’d like his mother to be able to visit his second-floor apartment, which she can’t until the elevator is fixed.
Fuller helped third-floor resident Charlotte Nicholson, 77, ease down the stairs backward until she gave up and moved out of McKinley Terrace and into a first-floor entry apartment in University Place. Her arthritis was keeping her mostly confined to her unit, and she had had enough, she said.
A former neighbor, Grace Georges, 83, has been making the step-by-step trip outside from the third floor with her dog, Chewy, despite some trouble with her knee.
Before the elevator broke, Hamilton and Bymers had daily coffee with neighbors on the second floor. But that and their occasional potlucks and bingo games have come to a halt, they said.
Instead, Bymers has been sitting in the day room on his floor, and is testing his brother’s high-end radio to see whether he wants to get one of his own.
He hasn’t been getting as many visits from his older brother, though. It’s been difficult for the 81-year-old to navigate the stairs, given his bad hip and the aftereffects of the heart attack he suffered in recent years.
“I just want to get out and walk the streets,” Bymers said.
He misses being able to visit with neighbors on the patio outside.
“That’s where the gossip is,” he said.
Bymers said the president of United Marketing Inc. called him to say the elevator was scheduled to be working Monday.
“I said, ‘When the elevator is ready, I’ll believe you,’” Bymers said.
While he isn’t counting on getting to enjoy the outdoors come Monday, he’s hopeful.
“I say a prayer to the elevator gods every morning,” he said.