Once able bodied, Stacey Clayton appreciates his new perspective as a disabled person following a midnight encounter with a young man outside his neighborhood grocery store in 1996.
As his wife Theresa waited for him to return from what should have been a quick 5-minutes there and 5-minutes back trip to buy milk for breakfast the next morning, she overheard people talking outside their home and learned there was some sort of commotion at the store.
“Her first reaction was, ‘I know my husband is nosey so that’s what’s taking him so long,” Stacey explained. “When she heard it was a shooting, she decided to go down there and look for me. As she was making her way through the crowd, she recognized my clothes right away and knew it was me lying there. I found out later that I had been shot twice, but I only remember the young man asking if I had any money before he pulled out a gun. I went to give him the $2 I had left in my pocket. He was about two feet away. I never even heard the gun shots.”
Wounded under his right arm and left eye, Stacey is now a para pelagic in a wheelchair.
“When you’re able bodied, you are kind of invisible,” he said. “But people have compassion for me now that I am disabled. I came through it all astonishingly well, and I never forget to be thankful. I am totally independent. I drive, I play wheelchair sports, and I enjoy sharing my story as a motivational speaker with people who are in hospitals.”
Soon after what Stacey and Theresa call “his accident,” the couple relocated to a new neighborhood and settled into a new routine. Then, about ten years ago, Theresa became disabled as well.
“I was referred to Northwest Indiana Community Action for assistance with Medicaid funding at that point,” he said. “The case manager also coordinated a number of other services for us. That’s when I was first told about Meals on Wheels. It’s been a life saver.”
Serving all of Lake County, Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana provides home-delivered meal service to those in our community who cannot conventionally shop or prepare a nutritious meal. Delivered by volunteers Monday through Friday between 11am and 2pm, meal menus follow heart healthy guidelines and can be modified for those with special needs, including diabetic, renal and cardiac diets, as well as for those who have concerns with chewing and swallowing.
“The meal they provide for us five times a week is our nutrition for the days when my wife doesn’t feel up to cooking,” Stacey added. “The volunteers also check on our well being, and all the volunteers we’ve had over the years have been very friendly. It’s especially nice to see a smiling face at the door and have someone to talk to when you’re not getting out regularly. We’ve made a number of lifelong friends through Meals on Wheels. They’re very good people.”
The collaborative efforts of Meals on Wheels and Northwest Indiana Community Action demonstrate Lake Area United Way’s support system at work right here in Northwest Indiana. Supported by LAUW, these programs are an integral part of maintaining the Clayton’s independent lifestyle. To learn more, go to lauw.org, mownwi.org and nwi-ca.com.
Photo: Stacey Clayton in his home with a shelf full of family memories from his lifetime, including two Gus Macker 3 on 3 Basektball Tournament trophies plus an individual Sportsmanship honor, which was a great honor for him to receive.
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