Volunteers give veteran a much-needed lift
Published 3:54 pm, Friday, July 17, 2015
Vietnam War veteran Gregory Patterson had been confined to three small rooms in his New Milford condominium due to his declining health.
That is until a group of volunteers pitched in to make his home more livable.
First came a stair chair, donated by the widow of a New York police officer who had recently died. She gave it freely with the request that it go to a veteran in need.
No sooner was the chair installed than Home Depot in New Milford donated the hardware, toilet and walk-in shower to make Patterson’s bathroom handicap accessible.
Carpenters, plumbers and handymen arrived on an ensuing day to volunteer their time to make the renovated bathroom a reality.
“When they left, it was like a part of the family had left,” Patterson said. “Here were these guys we’d never met before, from New York and Connecticut — and it was old home week.”
Bill Edwards, a veterans advocate from Westchester County in New York, first reached out to Patterson. Joyce Patterson, Greg’s wife, had been given a contact to Edwards.
“He’s providing a metal ramp at cost that is being paid for by donations from two motorcycle clubs,” he added. “Greg will be able to leave the condo.”
Edwards holds an annual charity show, Wounded Veterans All-Star Christmas, to raise funds for veterans’ organizations.
Graham, a Santa Claus at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, had performed in a military Santa outfit at the event. He and Edwards stayed in touch.
“I had a customer whose husband had passed away and she wanted to donate the stair chair that he had never used,” Graham said. “She told me she’d give it to me if I could find a disabled veteran who needed it.”
“It just snowballed from there,” Graham said. “What started out as a giant donation from the heart by a woman who’d lost her husband passed through me.”
“Now Greg can get up to the second floor of his home,” he remarked, “has a bathroom he can use, and is getting a ramp so he can leave his home.”
Patterson said the stair chair is “a godsend. I can even go to bed now.”
“Three weeks ago, this whole story began,” Joyce Patterson said. “It’s been a miracle. I know if I ever need any help, I can pick up the phone and call one of these guys and they’ll be here. I’d heard about the camaraderie that comes from serving in the military and now I’ve seen it.”
For two and a half months, Patterson had lived 24/7 in a Queen Anne wing chair in their living room. He’d lost the use of his legs and still is going to doctors to determine the cause of his illness.
“We were down in the dumps,” Joyce Patterson said, “trying to get a diagnosis. Realizing we’d have to leave our home of 19 years. And these people walked into our lives. Now it will be our choice if we stay here.”
John Ahern, a contractor from Somers, N.Y., arranged for the carpenters and plumber. He and his friends are all veterans ready to help a fellow serviceman.
“Bill was a mentor for me when I was younger,” Ahern said. “Anything he needs to help a veteran, I’m there for him.”
“This is Bill’s thing,” he added. “He puts 100 percent of the money his charity event raises toward helping veterans in need. And networks constantly to find vets in need.”
Rolling Thunder MC3, a motorcycle club from New York, and Leathernecks MC CT, a veterans’ motorcycle club, donated their time and the money for the metal ramp.
Bob Anderson, Team Depot captain from New Milford Home Depot, arranged for the bathroom donations from the company. Home Depot helps veterans nationwide through its Team Depot project.