Eyeing a price tag of about $4,000, septuagenerian Frank Gioia knew he couldn’t afford the wheelchair ramp he needs to get in and out of his Methuen home. So the former Marine turned to the city’s veterans services office.
But that effort initially stalled, leaving Gioia’s wife struggling to help her husband up and down the stairs — until a number of community leaders and veterans stepped in.
Earlier this month, city councilor and contractor Ronald Marsan donated a weekend’s time to installing a ramp at Gioia’s home on Pleasant Valley Street.
The project was financed using part of a $5,000 grant that a local Disabled American Veterans chapter, called the Queen City #2, secured from the Home Depot Foundation.
The Lawrence/Methuen Community Coalition and Methuen’s veterans services staff also pitched in.
The Gioias could not be reached at home Tuesday, but Thomas H. Hargreaves, director of Methuen’s Veterans Services Department, said the former Marine’s mobility issues were at least in part due to a stroke he had several years ago.
Hargreaves lauded the locals who came together to provide Gioia and his wife with a ramp — particularly after his staff had difficulty moving the project forward through other channels.
“These folks are at or near 70 years of age [and] this just makes it easier for everybody,” Hargreaves said.
Hargreaves said he expects this collaboration to lead to other projects intended to help those in need who have served in the country’s armed forces.
“This is just another tool that we’re going to have in our toolbox now,” he said, “to take care of our veterans.”
Home Depot Foundation spokeswoman Paula Drake could not immediately confirm details about the grant that helped build Gioia’s ramp, but said that in 2011 her organization changed its focus to “ensuring that every veteran has a safe place to call home.”
Since then, the Foundation has committed $80 million toward such projects, including rehabilitating homes, and supporting homeless shelters and transitional housing for veterans and their families.
“Home Depot itself has more than 35,000 veterans that work for the company, so it’s a very personal issue for us,” Drake said. “So what we did for this gentleman is what we’re doing for veterans across the country.”Erin Ailworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.