With progressing Parkinson’s disease, the odds were against SPC Joe Recupero’s ability to stay in his own home much longer.
But now this Vietnam Purple Heart recipient is getting a huge helping hand from an organization devoted to helping veterans age in place. The community also has a chance to help.
Friday, representatives from Purple Heart Homes, and a small crew of volunteers, began overhauling Recupero’s home on Forest Lane.
“It’s going to increase his livability and sustainability in his home,” said Dale Beatty, who along with John Gallina co-founded Purple Heart Homes after the two had been injured in Iraq. The group is devoted to giving back to veterans.
Major improvements for the Canton home include a new driveway and accessible ramp, new roof, floors, wider doorways, an accessible bathroom, a new kitchen and a dishwasher.
Installation of the latter was about all that Recupero requested, said Vicki Thomas, chief communications officer for Purple Heart Homes.
The work is all designed for wheel-chair accommodation, something Recupero doesn't need now but likely will.
The organization came across Joe after a veteran who volunteered on another Connecticut project told him about the group. It took some convincing to accept help — and media attention — but Recupero, a Howitzer gunner in Vietnam, is grateful.
“It’s something I’d never be able to do myself,” he said. “These guys are on the ball.”
Vietnam veterans are often reluctant to accept help, Beatty said. But while the projects are provided free of charge with help from some heavy hitters like the Home Depot Foundation, it’s not a handout, he said. It’s giving something back to those who gave so much. In Recupero’s case his Parkinson’s is a result of “Agent Orange” exposure, Thomas said.
“It’s more about uplifting them, not just giving them something,” Beatty said.
For some like Recupero it’s the support they lacked when returning from Vietnam. Working at a car dealership in Torrington, the harassment and taunts got so bad he had to quit. He would later go on to take over his father's business on Route 44 - Santo's Wrought Iron Works.
Now the community can step up and help as well. Purple Heart Homes is seeking financial support, a few items for the home and plenty of volunteers. Especially useful would be some landscaping materials such as shrubberies, some garden experts, painters, tile layer and more. Also needed are some who are just willing to help with the project.
The organization estimates the job will take two months. If you can offer some time, donation or other items, call Vicki Thomas at (203) 984-2138.
There is also an effort to get Recupero a service dog. See more about that at http://www.gofundme.com/3t86z0