Elkhart community helps wheelchair-bound woman get 'new wheels'

By: Sabrina Wu Email
By: Sabrina Wu Email

It may seem strange to some, that the owner of an auto repair shop would want to find a way to help one customer need his services less, but that's exactly what Denny Thompson, the owner of Jim Stone's Service shop in Elkhart, did. He frequently worked on a 1984 van belonging to a resident confined to a wheelchair.

The decades-old van was her only way of getting around, but it falling apart and frequently needed repairs.

Thompson said he made the decision to do more to help his customer over the summer. That was when the air conditioning in the van stopped working, and Terry Fillio was forced to sweat it out in temperatures that reached 100 degrees inside the van. Thompson started selling candybars to help raise money to help Fillio buy a new van, when another customer came in looking to sell her old one.

With the help of generous donations from the Elkhart community, Thompson found a way to help both customers at the same time. He spearheaded the effort to raise more than $19,000 to help purchase the 2005 Dodge Caravan, which Fillio received a few days ago.

"When the previous customer that had it wanted to sell it, I thought, 'Boy, this'd be a great van for Terry,'" said Thompson. "[the van's] in good shape. I've known the van for a long time. And it fits with what she needs."

Fillio had been working to raise money herself with a neighbor's help. She said she was shocked when Thompson was able to raise the money within a few weeks.

"We had been working for quite some time. My neighbor boy decided I needed a new van, he put together some fundraisers, and they raised some money, but it would have taken us forever to get the money to purchase the van," said Fillio. "Denny came along and saved the day."

Thompson said he could not have helped Fillio without the help of concerned residents and is very grateful to be a part of the Elkhart community.

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