DAV, local businesses helps disabled Maryville veteran get needed equipment

MARYVILLE (WATE) – A disabled Vietnam veteran and his wife are grateful to people who reached out to help them.

The day after WATE 6 On Your Side aired Gerald Collis’s story in August, the Disabled American Veterans in Fountain City called. For 95 years, the mission of the DAV has been to serve disabled veterans and their families to give them hope. Sue Collis had just about run out of hope when she contacted WATE 6 On Your Side.

She needed a power wheelchair lift and he needed a wheelchair accessible walk-in shower.

Sue Collis watched plumbers work inside her bathroom and under her home last week as they prepared to install a walk-in tub that her disabled husband will be able to use. Gerald Collis, a decorated Vietnam veteran, has Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, and can’t walk very well.

Previous story: Maryville disabled veteran needs special equipment

“He’ll be able to bring his power chair to here. Then I can help him get in and sit down,” said Sue Collis.

With this new tub, she will no longer have to struggle to assist her husband. There’s something else made easier for them too. Collis had requested, but was denied by the VA, a power wheelchair lift for their SUV. A manual one is too heavy for her to lift when she takes Gerald Collis to the doctor. Seven weeks ago, he said he doesn’t like to have to ask for help but now needs it.

The Collises needed a power wheelchair lift and he needed a wheelchair accessible walk-in shower.
The Collises needed a power wheelchair lift and he needed a wheelchair accessible walk-in shower.

After seeing our story, Rick Lynch from the Disabled American Veterans in Fountain City was one of the first to call WATE 6 On Your Side pledging his chapter’s assistance to the Collises.

By mid-September, the DAV Chapter 24 found a power wheelchair lift and installed it on Gerald Collis’s vehicle. The DAV also installed a wheelchair ramp leading from Sue’s garage into her home.

“Car Care on Clinton Highway done all of the electric for the electric lift. We contacted All Ramps out of West Knoxville. They provided the ramp system for them. And I called around to a couple of plumbing companies within the community and HEP jumped out,” said Rick Lynch with the DAV.

HEP came to the couple’s home twice – first to take out their old tub. Then the Knoxville business sent its plumbers to Maryville to install the walk-in tub provided by the company. Adam Haynes says HEP’s owner has a soft spot for veterans like Gerald Collis.

“We actually have a large number of veterans who are employed by HEP and HEP likes to reach out and help as many as possible,” said Haynes.

“Going through the VA and you are waiting for something – you need it now. You don’t need it six months from now. Quality of life is everything to a veteran,” said Lynch.

Gerald Collis said he’s grateful to all those who thought so much of him to lend a hand.

“It’s all because of the DAV, AM Ramp and a private citizen. And the people from HEP have been wonderful. I can’t thank them enough. I love my husband so much and I have wanted this for him for years and now he’s got it,” said Sue Collis.

The DAV chapter in Fountain City is the only one in East Tennessee that has wheelchairs, wheelchair lifts and other equipment for disabled vets. The chapter has about 1,200 men and women who are members and they’re very busy, as you might imagine.

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