- Associated Press - Friday, September 11, 2015

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - Angel Stinnett of Terre Haute wanted to help out her 82-year-old grandfather, Morris Wheeler, who needed new appliances.

“I try to help my grandpa out any time that I can,” Stinnett said. “I knew that he needed some things that typical agencies around here don’t help with, so I spent a lot of time looking online, and I came across Twilight Wish.”

The Twilight Wish Foundation Chapter of Indiana granted Wheeler’s wish, and on Wednesday he received a new gas stove and had his washing machine repaired at his home in the 1100 block of South Fifth Street.

“I don’t know how to cook very good, but I can do a hamburger. I can cook that real good,” Wheeler said, “but that’s it.”

The appliances weren’t all Wheeler received on Wednesday. He also received a stop sign signed by students and teachers, and a police medal in honor of his two decades as a school crossing guard.

Wheeler, 82, is a U.S. Marine veteran, having served from 1951 to 1955.

He joined the Marines at age 17 and was almost sent home from training camp, but “I was allowed to stay because I would turn 18 before I got outta boot camp,” he said with a smile.

Born in Patoka, south of Princeton, Wheeler said he didn’t attend high school, but finished eighth grade.

“They kicked me out of third grade because I wouldn’t shave,” he joked. “I just started working on odd jobs - pushing ice cream coolers, delivering papers and then worked for (the former) Silverstein Furniture Store (in downtown Terre Haute)” before he entered the military, signing up for the U.S Marines.

After four years, Wheeler said he “wanted to get out. I started working at Felix Cleaners and worked there for 30 years as the wash man,” he said.

He then became a crossing guard; his wife, Phyllis, who died in 2001, had served as a crossing guard. Wheeler is now a crossing guard for Davis Park Elementary School.

Joy Mascari, a kindergarten teacher, and Ashley Hemmings, a third-grade teacher, as well as Davis Park Principal Tammy Roeschlein, came to Wheeler’s house to present him with a stop sign, with signatures from students and teachers to “Mr. Wheeler” wishing him well.

“He has been our crossing guard for almost 20 years at Davis Park, and he is so nice,” Roeschlein said. “He is very kind to all of our kids. I feel very comfortable that on 19th and Poplar (streets), he will make sure kids cross that intersection safely,” she said.

Wheeler was also paid a visit from Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse, who gave him a special police coin-like medal to honor his efforts as a crossing guard.

“That was really nice,” Wheeler said as he clasped the medal and carefully studied its markings.

“I was surprised, especially when I saw the teachers, the principal and then the chief of police, that really got to me,” Wheeler said.

As a crossing guard, Wheeler said he enjoys “watching the kids and take care of them and make sure they don’t get hit. I like to talk to the kids every morning and I always ask them how they are feeling,” he said.

Wheeler said he has no plans to hang up his crossing guard duties soon. “I guess I will be there until I kick the bucket,” he said.

Twilight Wish Foundation Chapter of Indiana and Springhill Village, a member of the American Senior Communities, coordinated efforts to grant the Twilight Wish to Wheeler. Robin Collins, director of admission and marketing for Springhill Village, reached out to Ace Washer and facilitated the payment for a gas stove and having repair work done on Wheeler’s washing machine.

“We felt it was a great fit, since we are all about senior care, to honor this generation that gave us so much,” Collins said of partnering with Twilight Wish. Ace Washer discounted the cost of the appliance and provided free installation, Collins said.

The new appliances “will help him to continue to be independent, be able to cook and clean. It will just be less wear and tear on his body trying to make it work on his own,” Stinnett said.

The Twilight Wish Foundation is a national nonprofit charitable organization aimed at honoring and enriching the lives of deserving elders. Founded in 2003, that national Twilight Wish has granted more than 2,337 individual wishes to seniors throughout the United States.

Sunee Fleshman, state director of the Twilight Wish Foundation Chapter of Indiana, started the Indiana chapter in 2013.

“We are fairly new and so far have granted six wishes, with most of our wishes granted in the Indianapolis area, so we are excited to extend out of the Indy metro area, and reach out to people in Terre Haute as well,” Fleshman said. “I think there is a definite need (for Twilight Wish) and being able to do something for seniors is meaningful,” Fleshman said.

Applications can be made through www.twilightwish.org. Applicants must be seniors who are over 68 and have an income of less than 200 percent of the poverty level or who are residents of a nursing facility and cannot make their wishes come true.

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/1FA9iFC

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Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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