YARMOUTH, N.S. – It’s not known if the #freegrammy hashtag would have widely trended, but Courtney Boudreau was prepared to find out.
She took to social media last week to draw attention to the fact that her 80-year-old grandmother was essentially trapped in her home because the foot of her driveway (on Department of Transportation property) was continuously being washed away due to improper drainage, rendering it impassible at times.
Whenever it was like this her grandmother, Edith Hamilton, could not have a vehicle come in and out of her driveway. And the steep walk up and down the driveway to a waiting car on the road below would take an exhausting and painful toll on the senior. The 80-year-old Yarmouth County resident said it's what she had to endure recently on the day of her brother’s funeral.
“I’ve been battling this for years and years,” she said about the continued washouts. Both Boudreau and Hamilton said the ongoing situation was causing a lot of anxiety.
After years of trying to get the problem properly rectified, including ongoing calls over the past couple of months, the granddaughter couldn’t stand it anymore. She took to social media.
“Every time it rains this washout occurs. The department of highways is called. They come out within a week and fill all the holes in with sand and gravel. The next time it rains the above process is repeated,” Boudreau said on her Facebook page Feb. 2. “What we now have is an entire five-foot ditch filled with sand and gravel and the water has nowhere to go, meaning every time it rains the driveway is completely inaccessible.”
A French drain that was installed didn’t solve the problem either.
Boudreau posted photos of the ongoing damage that the family has been trying for years to have the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) adequately fix. She asked people to share her posting. It didn’t perhaps go viral in the truest definition of social media, but her post was shared over 300 times.
“If anything, Grammy now knows that a lot of people care about an 80-year-old woman,” said Boudreau on Feb. 5.
On this same day the transportation department was out at her grandmother’s Carleton property doing repair work days after her Facebook post had drawn more attention to her grandmother’s plight. TIR operations supervisor Don Houston went to Hamilton’s home and personally apologized to the grandmother and granddaughter about how long this had dragged out.
“He was very apologetic and told us in detail the plans to fix it now and the plans to resolve it in the spring,” said Boudreau. “He shook our hand and was very kind.”
John Cunningham, the deputy warden for the municipality, had also taken notice of Boudreau’s post to act on it, and Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill, who had previously stepped in to help, put more pressure, in recent days, on having work carried out.
“He was thankful it was being fixed and that he would keep in touch,” said Boudreau. “We were very thankful to him.”
Hamilton and Boudreau share a very close and loving bond. Asked what her tipping point was, the granddaughter said, “I drove by and I watched the water rolling over it and I said, ‘That’s been a week and a half.’” She knew of at least four other family members and friends who had called asking for help.
“I called and asked to speak to a supervisor and said, ‘What’s my next step?’ The lady said this is it. This is all you can take,” says Boudreau, saying she thought to herself, “Good enough. I’ll show you what my next step is.”
She says her grandmother thought nobody cared about her, but Boudreau told her Grammy that over 300 people – including strangers – had shared her social media post so yes, people did care.
“There were so many elderly people that commented and said, ‘All the power to you, someone needs to speak up for us.’”
And if she couldn't get the message across through social media Boudreau had another idea.
“I was going to put a sign in her window that read, ‘Free Grammy!’” the granddaughter says, thankful to all that the problem is now receiving the rightful attention it deserves.