Lions Help Make Disabled Able Again

Aberdeen Organization Provides Much More Than Just Eyeglasses

Year In Review/unsung Heroes

December 29, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,SUN STAFF

Most angels carry harps, not hammers.

But a wheelchair ramp builtby the Aberdeen Lions Club and a local contractor has made a big difference for Robert Goldsmith Jr.

Without the ramp, the 29-year-old would not have been able to return home last year, when a spinal virus left him paralyzed from the waist down.

When doctors said it was unsafe for Goldsmith to live in his parents home without access for his wheelchair, the Lions Club provided the lumber to build the ramp.

Aberdeen contractor Jack DeWitt donated his labor.

"He was very gracious; he wouldn't take anything," said Loraine Goldsmith, Robert's mother. "I told him he's anangel sent from God, and so's the Lions Club. They're great people."

The ramp project was one of the more visible efforts of the LionsClub, which works throughout the year to help people in need.

Scores of families and individuals appeal to the Lions Club for help every year.

"The Lions Club primarily helps people with sight and hearing disabilities," said Jim Kelton, the group's first vice president. "With money from local school fund-raising, we lend wheelchairs, special beds, walkers, crutches and other aids for disabilities."

The Lions are most familiar for their eyeglass-distribution program. Group members gather used glasses from collection boxes at local stores. The glasses are turned over twice annually to the Baltimore regional Lions Club, which refurbishes them and matches prescriptions to people in need.

The Aberdeen Lions Club raises money through spaghetti dinners, fruit sales and Christmas tree sales, Kelton said.

The club's annual spring pancake dinner will be changed to a breakfast March 21 as part of celebrations honoring Aberdeen's centennial. But the Lions Club still expects to raise $15,000 for the year, Kelton said.

"Just about all of it goes back to the local community," he said. "None of the money goes to operate the club. That's verboten."

The club adopted 18 Aberdeen families for the holidays, delivering food baskets and Christmas trees.

That's how the Lions Club came to help Goldsmith, when club member Ron Landbeck delivered a Christmas tree to his troubled car mechanic.

Goldsmith was part-owner of Beard's Hill Sunoco in November 1989, when he began consulting doctors from Baltimore to Delaware in search of what robbed him of the use of his legs.

"All of a sudden, I was paralyzed from the waist down," herecalled. "I walked to work and about 2 o'clock, Dad had to come getme because I couldn't stand."

Doctors said Goldsmith suffered a virus that can't be treated because it has not been identified.

After almost three months of physical therapy at Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital in Baltimore, doctors said they would not release Goldsmith, fearing he would be trapped in his parents home if a fire started.

"I had to have the ramp to get released from Montebello to come home," Goldsmith said.

Medical bills had depleted Goldsmith's savings; his retired parents were in no position to pay the $1,000 DeWitt, the contractor, said it would cost for him to build the ramp.

After winning custody of his two daughters in a divorce, Goldsmith moved into his parents' home in 1988.

"We couldn't afford it, period,"Goldsmith's mother, Loraine, said. "I'm a senior citizen on a fixed income, and so's his dad."

DeWitt offered his labor free if the Goldsmiths' could come up with the materials.

"The Lions Club came through for them and paid for the lumber," DeWitt said. "I was glad tohelp out. If I can help somebody like that, God darn it, some day I might need help."

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