When Denise Senk saw a neighbor in need, she decided to do something about it. Christopher Galeassi was struggling with two canes and five bags of groceries, attempting to walk from Acme home to Sunnyside.
Senk immediately pulled over and put his bags into her truck.
“He thought I was robbing him,” said Senk. “Once I convinced him I wasn’t, he let me give him a ride home.”
Senk said that’s when she found out the condition her neighbor had been living in for more than two years.
“I came into his house and started to cry,” she said. “I had to beg him to let me help.”
Galeassi was living without running water for over two years. Trash, belongings and food was stacked nearly floor to ceiling. His roof was leaking, he lacked proper windows and had visible holes in the floor of his trailer.
Senk said she reached out to other neighbors in the development to assist. Joe, a roofer, occupied a nearby home. There, she met Patricia Durdeen, another neighbor who offered to post updates to social media and contact local businesses to help.
Soon, a group of neighbors morphed into what is now being lovingly called “The Sunnyside Project.”
Galeassi’s health was suffering. After being struck by a car years ago, he’d never fully recovered.
“He kept walking four miles a day,” said Senk of her neighbor. “He’d come home with bandages covered with blood.”
Across-the-street neighbor Jamie Ellis noticed a need, and decided to fill it.
“I gave him my number, said I’d run him to the store, doctor, errands, whatever he needed,” said Ellis. “When I’d see him walking, I’d pick him up. I’d stop traffic right on Ridge.”
Without a car, it was difficult for Galeassi to meet his needs as his health began to fade. One Friday, he called on Ellis to get him some much-needed Gatorade, as he struggled with dehydration.
Ellis brought him some, and said Saturday he asked for the same.
“On Saturday, when I brought it, he couldn’t even get up to answer the door,” said Ellis. “I went in to bring it to him and could see how bad it was.”
Ellis said Galeassi was surrounded by bags of vomit and was living in filth.
“I begged him to go to the hospital,” said Ellis. “He wouldn’t. He was worried about his cat.”
By Sunday, when Ellis was asked once again to get him drinks, his neighbor decided to put his foot down. With the help of his wife Barbara, the couple convinced him to go to a hospital. Senk agreed to watch Kiki, his cat, so he could seek medical help.
“The doctor said if we would have waited five hours, he’d have been dead,” said Ellis. “We saved his life.”
Galeassi had to have partial amputation done to both feet. He also suffered from pneumonia and diabetes.
Ellis said he had no doubt something had to be done while Galeassi sought medical care.
“It just felt right,” said Ellis. “I want to lend a helping hand where I can. My heart told me to help.”
“It is just the right thing to do,” she said. On June 6, Galeassi was admitted to the hospital and on the same day, his house was condemned.
With that, the neighbors got to work. Since his hospital stay, they’ve all pitched in to do what they can to make Galeassi’s homecoming awesome.
“It has been a team effort all around,” said Durdeen. “People have given well beyond their own means to make this work.”
With the help of a bake sale and yard sale organized by the Sunnyside neighborhood, the residents raised funds for fixing up Galeassi’s home. Durdeen was able to obtain support from many Eagleville-area businesses to further the cause.
Thus far, contributions have come from:
· Via Roma
· Home Depot
· Einstein Bagels
· Corropolese Bakery
· J.P. Mascaro and Sons
· People Helping People
· Bravo Pizza, Limerick
· Habitat for Humanity
· Lower Providence Township
· TAP Into Lower Providence
· Panera Bread (Nancy Randall)
The neighbors had to obtain several permits to do the extensive work required at Galeassi’s home. They asked the township for a waiver of fees, due to the circumstances, but Township Manager Richard Gestrich announced at the last meeting of the board of supervisors that that would not be necessary.
“A generous donor has stepped forward and paid them for you,” he said.
The neighbors have also set up a GoFundMe account here, to accept donations for the work. With the help of donations, the two sales and local businesses, the neighbors have made a lot of progress.
“Mascaros gave us a dumpster and we gutted the entire house,” said Durdeen. “We had to throw away most all of his belongings due to damage.”
From small appliances for his home, to donations of food for the workers, bake sale goods for sale, and even lumber and gloves, the local businesses in the Eagleville area have given to the cause.
The group is still in need of three major items, or financial donations to help purchase them. They include:
Ø Plumbing assistance
Kristen Albone, who has done work with Habitat for Humanity as well, has joined the team. Owner and operator of Home by Kristen, the designer is helping to give the home a unique touch.
“This is so inspiring,” she said of The Sunnyside Project. “I wanted to help where I can, and I am so glad I have had the privilege to be involved.”
Donating her time, Albone said that she is glad to be able to assist.
“It is a mission of my business to be socially responsible,” said Albone. “I cannot imagine a greater insecurity than to not have a home, to feel safe.”
The neighbors said that, since the project began, it has given Galeassi a new hope.
“He started to fight again, to get better,” said Durdeen.
“I showed him photos of the roof and the walls, and his demeanor changed. I think he was giving up before, but now he is fighting,” she said. “He told me he thought God had abandoned him, but that now he knows He hasn’t, that this is proof.”
The neighbors all agree they just want to do the right thing, to fight to be sure a neighbor can keep his home.
“He is not allowed to repay us for a thing,” said Durdeen. “We only accept hugs as repayment.”
To donate to the project, please use the GoFundMe site here. Those with information about lumber, plumbing or window assistance can reach Durdeen via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 484-684-6520.