Santa Claus comes early with wheelchair donation
Preston Automotive, First Light for Light for First Responders replace wheelchair lost in fire
GRASONVILLE — “Santa Claus came early” — that’s how Bruce Quinn described his feelings when he was surprised Dec. 12 with a new, motorized wheelchair to replace one lost in the fire that destroyed his house.
A former volunteer firefighter, Quinn, 66, has lived on Main Street in Grasonville for decades. On Oct. 24, a propane fire left him with only the clothes he was wearing and his dog Alex. Since then, Quinn has been staying with his best friend Jeff Risley and Jeff’s wife Angie, and Quinn’s dog, a border collie, German shepherd mix, has been living at his brother’s.
Justin Davis, founder of First Light for First Responders and life member of Grasonville Volunteer Fire Department himself, said he has known Quinn most all his life. Quinn was in the fire department with Davis’ dad and has always helped out everybody in the community, Davis said.
Davis helped collect clothing donations and gift cards to help meet Quinn’s immediate needs after the fire.
When Quinn called the say thank you, he said Davis asked him, “Mr. Bruce is there anything else you need?”
He told Davis the only thing he could really use was a wheelchair. He had two, and both of them burned in the fire. He needed a bariatric wheelchair because of his size, which added to the cost.
Quinn said he has “a ton of medical problems,” including breathing and walking issues. Without a chair, he was mostly confined to the house, only able to manage short distances with a walker.
First Light is an organization that supports first responders, their families and communities, especially in times of disaster, and Davis wanted to help Quinn. He said he immediately started making calls, looking for donations.
David Wilson Jr. at Preston Automotive Group stepped up to help First Light fund the chair, Davis said, and David Davis with the Lions Club helped him research the kind of chair needed. Davis found one for sale by a woman whose husband had died a couple months ago.
Custom Canvas Coverings in Grasonville reupholstered the arm rests and provided a new, comfy seat cushion, Davis said.
Davis, the Risleys and the staff at Preston Ford plotted to keep the chair a secret until it was finished.
Angie told him she was going to pick up some lighted reindeer she was buying for the yard and got him to go along, Quinn said.
“I didn’t have a clue what was going on,” he said.
Angie and several people from Preston Ford came back to the car and asked him to get out, saying they were going to wash the vehicle. As he got out, he said he caught sight of Justin bringing the wheelchair around and suddenly everyone was shouting, “Merry Christmas!”
“I just lost it,” he said. “You don’t know what this means to me.”
He called the chair “a thing from heaven” and said it would give him “a little bit of freedom.”
He took the chair for a spin in the parking lot.
Davis said Quinn’s reaction had him tearing up too. He expressed his thanks again to David Wilson and Preston for the donation.
“2020 has been hard on many and when we became aware of Mr. Quinn’s story, we had to assist. To see his reaction and smile on his face for his new wheelchair was priceless, and it’s something I’ll never forget,” Wilson said. “Community is a core value to our organization and it’s a privilege to serve it, for people like Mr. Quinn.”
The whole community has been generous since the fire, Quinn said. The Queen Anne’s County Watermen’s Association donated $1,000, and a woman he’d helped after a house fire years ago insisted he take $400 from her.
Now, “with the news of the chair, I’ve had my Christmas made,” Quinn said. “God has answered all my prayers.”
He is hoping by this time next month to have a modular home to replace the one that burned and to be reunited with his dog.
Quinn also said he wants to give back. He has two pellet stoves that were removed from his house before the fire. He was in the process of converting to gas heat because lifting and carrying the pellets had become too much for him. He told Davis he’d like to donate them along with accompanying pellets to help other families in need.