METHUEN – Frank Gioia got all choked up emotionally last week when a small group of Santa’s helpers showed up at his Colonial style house on Pleasant Valley Street to hang a holiday wreath on the wheelchair ramp they recently built for him.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present than this,” said Gioia, a 70-year-old Marine veteran of the Vietnam war who has needed a ramp since suffering a double stroke seven years ago that paralyzed much of the left side of his body.
“If it wasn’t for all these gentlemen here today, I’d never see one of these. I can’t thank them enough,” he said.
The Santa’s helpers who made the ramp possible are representatives from a coalition of local community agencies and veterans organizations that recently united to work on projects that assist local veterans. They include the Lawrence/Methuen Community Coalition (LMCC), the Queen City Chapter #2, the Methuen Veteran Services Office, a city councilor who built the ramp pro bono and the Home Depot Foundation – which awarded a $5,000 grant that will pay for the supplies to build several ramps for veterans.
“Before the ramp, his wife would have to help him walk up five steps to get in the house,” said Don Silva, treasurer of the local DAV chapter, which serves Lawrence, Methuen, Andover and North Andover.
“So, this is a big relief for her as well as him,” he said.
Silva said he first learned of Gioia’s hardship during the summer when Gioia contacted him, requesting any kind of assistance. Silva later filed papers to have the DAV represent the veteran as his clamant representative in future dealings.
Meanwhile, LMCC’s Director Harold Magoon learned of a possible grant from the Home Depot Foundation and applied for the money.