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A special Christmas gift

By Staff | Dec 23, 2019

The magic of the holiday season was on full display last week in Cape Coral, as two local groups partnered to give a veteran a very special gift just in time for Christmas.

When Guy DiPasqual entered his home last Friday, he could barely recognize it. That’s because Lee BIA Builders Care and Lennar Homes partnered up to give the 75-year-old veteran life-changing home renovations that brought a smile from ear-to-ear.

“I never anticipated such a remarkable improvement to my house,” DiPasqual said. “I expect some changes, but not a whole do-over totally. This is more than I could have expected, everything changed.”

When DiPasqual left his home about two weeks ago, he thought he was getting work done to his bathroom and a repair made to a leaky roof. He quickly realized once he stepped over the threshold of his home and began looking around that it was much more.

“I knew in my mind what we were going to do. We were going to come out here and just tear through this thing, and pretty much give him a new house,” said Lennar Vice President of Construction Ray Kershaw. “We all look forward to this every year in December. We partner with Builders Care every year and give back to help somebody. It’s a really special day.”

DiPasqual, who served in both the United States Army and Air Force, suffered an unexpected stroke earlier this year, leaving him without the home modifications necessary to make day-to-day life more accommodating.

Now, he has a ramp to his front door to make wheelchair use easier, a handicap-friendly bathroom and brand new floors to make walking from room-to-room a breeze with his walker or chair — as opposed to his prior carpet that would snag the wheels and make easy tasks more challenging.

The renovated bathroom now features a new entrance with a widened doorway, as well as a roll-in shower with built-in seating, an adjustable shower head and grab bars.

His ceiling is all patched up and ready for Southwest Florida’s weather, a wall was removed in his living room to open space up to the kitchen — which has all new appliances. Bedrooms were given a breath of fresh air — and linens. Hurricane shutters were added. All new living room furniture was set up, a new television added, holiday decor strung about, a pantry of food stocked and, for DiPasqual, a heart full of gratitude.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think an organization would choose me to make a project out of my home and improve my life so much,” DiPasqual said. “This is a remarkable event to have happened to me, especially at my age. I can only thank the people, as well as thank God, that he actually looked positively down on me because something had to be somehow motivating people to help me in some fashion.”

Kewshaw, as well as Lee BIA Builders Care Executive Director Becky Swift, said DiPasqual was more than deserving of this holiday treat. One they do each year.

“It was, amazing,” Kershaw said of being able to help DiPasqual. “To be able to do this, to change his life and his day-to-day needs that he has, we hope that we made a big impact for him. He’s got a good heart, and to be able to open our hearts to help him is something we like to do.”

Swift, understandably, was overwhelmed by the emotions felt by more than 65 members of both groups in attendance upon seeing DiPasqual’s reaction to his renovated home.

“I can’t even explain the emotions right now they’re so high,” Swift said. “Seeing him walk in today, I just can’t even explain it.”

Swift said that giving back to a veteran makes the project even more special.

“He gave to us,” Swift said. “He was in the military and so he’s been giving back to us all this time, so to be able to do something for him, is more than what I can ask for.”

The two groups work together every holiday season to put together a special project for someone deserving. Lee BIA Builders Care does work such as this year-round.

“We do this every year,” Kershaw said. “We give back to the community to be able to help someone like Guy. We have a lot of fun doing it, too. It’s more than just a job, we love doing this. We all look forward to it every year in December. It’s just a really special day.”

For Swift, it’s, as they say, the most wonderful time of the year.

“It’s the best time of the year,” Swift said. “I love doing every project, but to see everybody come together, all the volunteers, all of Lennar’s staff being here 24/7 — I mean they were here at night ’til 10, 11, 12 at night, we were here 5 o’clock in the morning — non-stop.”

As DiPasqual moved from room to room, seeing his new bathroom, floors, living space, bedrooms and even patio, he could not believe all the work done in just two weeks time. Swift and Kershaw were also keen on not spoiling the surprise.

“This kind of work is extraordinary, and the people doing the work are probably a cut above the rest to devote so much energy to the organization,” DiPasqual said. “They put their heart and soul into it. They work so rapidly and in such a short period of time. I don’t think you could find employees to do that kind of work today as well as they have done.”

Now, DiPasqual can enjoy the comfort of his new home, accommodations and ambiance around the holiday season, one he is sure not to forget.

“I guess it makes it more of a merry Christmas for me, that’s for sure,” DiPasqual said with a smile.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj