EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: As a public service to our community, this is the third in a series of five weekly articles for the annual Edmond Sun Christmas Samaritan Fund Drive benefiting the HOPE Center of Edmond. A running tally plus a listing of donor names are featured in the Tuesday and Saturday print editions of The Edmond Sun throughout the campaign. Saturday's total is at $44,337.58.
David Gallaher never had the responsibility of being a primary caregiver until his wife was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig Disease.
“There’s a lot of people who care,” said David Gallaher, 41. “The HOPE Center is good for that.”
Edmond residents may give their generous support to the annual Edmond Sun Christmas Samaritan Fund Drive benefiting the HOPE Center of Edmond
Acute emergencies caused by disease, unemployment, child abuse, homelessness, domestic violence and divorce have been the main reasons people seek assistance at HOPE, a nonprofit agency, said Chris Sperry, executive director. It also provides a prenatal health clinic for mothers.
“Just recently — getting help for Sharon — there’s a lot of people coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘Hey, you need some food.’ HOPE Center has been the primary support that I call if I really need it. Everybody is only a couple of checks away from losing it all.”
The Edmond Sun Christmas Samaritan Fund Drive marks its 24th year. More than $3.08 million in emergency assistance for those in need has been provided by the center’s generous supporters since The Sun began the Samaritan Fund Drive in 1989.
This year’s goal of $165,000 will continue to provide more than one-third of the HOPE Center’s $400,000 budget.
“Without that place, where would people go?” Gallaher said. “Me being there for only 30 minutes at a time — I see a dozen people coming in asking for help. It doesn’t matter if you drive a Lexus. If you get a disease, you get a disease.”
More than 1 million Americans are affected by neuromuscular diseases, according to Muscular Dystrophy Association. This relentless disease will progressively destroy neuromuscular function. Sharon’s diagnosis came three months ago.
“It’s been going on for a year-and-a-half, not knowing what it was,” Gallaher said. She is on supplemental oxygen and can barely walk. Caring for his wife is an around-the-clock process for Gallaher.
“I can’t leave her alone,” he said as Sharon sat on their sofa, watching a TV show.
Gallaher hasn’t worked in 12 weeks. Gallaher and Sharon, 48, had to leave their jobs at Crest Foods due to her illness. The couple’s two children, 14-year-old Elizabeth and their son Brandon, 11, go to school during the day.
“I swing a hammer. I build houses and fix stuff,” Gallaher said..
About six weeks ago, he could no longer pay for his family’s rent. HOPE helped the family with a utility bill last year when Sharon lost her strength to work. HOPE has more recently provided the family’s food, rent and a gas bill.
He has been familiar with HOPE since the days when he would deliver Crest Food nutritional donations to the charity.
“I was the maintenance guy doing my part in getting the orders together. Then it turned out that I needed them,” Gallaher said. “That’s pretty good. They were there strong. You know they talked with me nice. It’s not a ‘Hurry, hurry, all right. Well we can or we can’t.’ It’s a ‘Lets see how we can work it out.’”
Board member and volunteer Gayle Anne Roberts said the staff realizes that an acute emergency can happen to everybody.
“No one should feel they should not come in if they need our help because that’s what we’re here for,” Roberts said.
Hope provided Gallaher with the first month of phone service. Without the HOPE Center, Gallaher would have had to rely totally on a family member for help.
“That’s pretty slim,” he said.
Henderson Hills Baptist Church has a program that will provide Christmas gifts for their children. HOPE also has a Christmas program to provide gifts.
“Even the school system, the counselors from Ida Freeman where my son goes, and from Central Middle where my daughter goes — they both are involved in trying to get them a good Christmas,” Gallaher said. “They know our situation. They’re on board. There are a lot of good people around.”