ELKHART — Only a few weeks after he started raising money to buy a new mobility van for long-time Elkhart resident Terry Fillio, business owner Denny Thompson has received more than the goal he set out to collect.
Thompson, owner of Jim Stone’s Service Inc. in downtown Elkhart, said the $19,000 he offered to collect to buy a 2005 Dodge Grand Canyon Caravan for Terry Fillio was raised within weeks; and then, the community gave some more.
“I want to thank the Elkhart community for all their support,” he said. “The response has just been overwhelming.”
Thompson committed to raise $19,000, the amount necessary to purchase the vehicle, tax and title included, after he saw the condition Fillio’s current van was in. Fillio had brought the van to be fixed more and more frequently over the last few years to Jim Stone’s Service.
Last summer, Fillio brought her van to be fixed again. And Thompson realized on day of 100-degree weather that the van’s air conditioner no longer worked and the windows in that van could not be opened.
To raise money, he started selling chocolate bars at his business. He also set up an account at Indiana Community Bank where anyone could donate to the Terry Fillio fund at any given time.
The bank account will remain open until the end of January, and the additional money he has raised will be given to Fillio so she can pay outstanding medical bills.
Money came from many who said they knew Fillio and wanted to help in any way. Many donations were from people who walked into Jim Stone’s Service and asked Thompson how they could help. Many others came through the bank account.
Deb Longcor, a long-time friend of Fillio’s, said many of Fillio’s friends and former classmates helped spread the word to let the community know about the fundraiser as well.
Fillio, who has lived most of her life in Elkhart, is well-known in the community. She is a survivor of the 1952 poliomyelitis epidemic who now uses a wheelchair, Thompson said. Fillio went to Indiana University in South Bend and worked several years at the Elkhart County Probation Department. Anyone who grew up in Elkhart knows her, he said.
On Monday afternoon Fillio, her caregiver and three of her neighborhood friends went to Jim Stone’s Service to finish the transaction in acquiring the van. She gave her old van to Gary Smith, another Elkhart resident, who purchased it for $1. Smith, whose son also uses a wheelchair, stopped at Jim Stone’s Service to get the van. Fillio and Smith talked for a few minutes, while she got to know more about his son and exchanged contact information to stay in touch.
Fillio said she was “excited and overwhelmed” by the amount of help she received in getting her new van.
“I’m extremely grateful,” she said, “Elkhart has been a good community for a long time, but this is way over the top.”