Volunteers help elderly, disabled after elevator breaks

When technicians were unable to locate a necessary part to fix the elevator at the John W. Weeks House in Newton, it was an inconvenience for many of the elderly and disabled residents. But for four residents, it meant the possibility of a Christmas alone.

“Most of them navigated down the stairs, and we placed chairs on the landings of the stairwells, so they could sit down and rest between floors,” said Jeanne Strickland, executive director of the Newton Community Development Foundation, which oversees the building. “But there were four people who really needed assistance.”

The median age of residents at the Weeks House is 80. Fifty-eight people who live on the upper two floors of the renovated school building rely on the elevator.


After learning that the elevator was broken, paramedics from Cataldo Ambulance Service rushed over to assist the four residents down the stairs, carrying them in ambulance chairs. They returned later in the day to help residents get back up.

“When we called [Cataldo], they didn’t hesitate,” Strickland said. “They did not charge anybody, but did this as a public service.”

One woman, who uses a specialized wheelchair, couldn’t be moved to an ambulance chair for transport. But after some extra help from Newton firefighters, she was brought to the ground floor. She spent the day with family and returned later that night. Firefighters and paramedicswere again on hand to help.

“As I watched three paramedics hoist my mother down two flights of stairs so she could have dinner at our home, tears of appreciation were in my eyes,” Winnie Ebb, whose 76-year-old mother has heart problems, said in an e-mail to the Globe. “This generosity and kindness was my best gift this holiday.”

In a final act of holiday good will, Sandwich Works in Newton stayed open late to prepare lunch and dinner for the residents. The Weeks House is paying for the food, but the shop planned to stay open at least two hours later — and deliver.


“I try to help out with the elderly,” said Jeff DeBonee, owner of Sandwich Works.

As for the helpful paramedics, they took a few cookies to nibble on after helping the residents on Christmas, but they refused a tip, Ebb said.

“For them, the tip wasn’t the point,” she said.

Jasper Craven can be reached at jasper.craven@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Craven