- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

WALLINGFORD, Conn. (AP) - When 81-year-old Army veteran Michael Santello returned home Wednesday from undergoing a month of cancer treatment, he needed some help getting into his house.

Santello was bedridden and unable to walk up the stairs to the front door of his Grove Street home. Last month, doctors discovered cancer in Santello’s lungs, which also spread to his brain.

Hoping to provide easier access to his front door, Santello’s son Dave contacted House of Heroes on Tuesday. The nonprofit organization provides no-cost home repair service to military and public service veterans.

On Friday, just three days later, 25 volunteers from the organization arrived at Santello’s home to build a 74-foot wooden ramp leading to the door.

“It’s just overwhelming,” Santello said of the organization’s effort to help him. “That right there is amazing.”

The organization’s Connecticut chapter has completed projects aiding veterans at 85 homes since its founding in 2011, vice chairman Steve Cavanaugh said. In total, the projects are valued at $600,000.

To be eligible for the organization’s service, a military or public service veteran must need financial or physical assistance with home repair and own and occupy the home.

The nonprofit, founded nationally in 2000, performs repairs that can be completed in one day, including cleaning, painting, installation of access ramps or screen windows and doors, repair of basic appliances, and yard maintenance and improvement.

About 8 a.m. Friday, House of Heroes volunteers arrived at Santello’s home. They completed the ramp by 2 p.m.

“You do it because they need it. There’s not enough people out there helping them,” Cavanaugh said.

Santello served 29 months in the Army, including five months in Vietnam, and worked professionally as an operations engineer. He and his wife, Gaile, moved to Wallingford in 1999.

In 2013, his wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has undergone treatment and several surgeries since. On Thanksgiving, one day after Santello returned home from cancer treatment, his wife was re-admitted to Smilow Cancer Hospital due to complications. She was admitted just before she could attend Thanksgiving dinner.

“The only thing I regret about today is my wife can’t be here,” Santello said Friday while fighting back tears.

Dave Santello said his family appreciates the organization’s support.

“I am beyond words that this many people showed up on short notice the day after Thanksgiving,” he said.

House of Heroes Operations Director Fred Miller said volunteers appreciate the opportunity to make a difference for veterans.

“I like leaving and knowing when I go to sleep at night that they have an easier time,” Miller said.


Information from: Record-Journal, https://www.record-journal.com

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