It was a seemingly ordinary day for Massachusetts dad and electrician John Kinney when he received a call from a woman named Gloria Scott. Scott, a 72-year-old woman living alone in her home contacted Kinney because one of her light fixtures was popping and sparking. Upon arriving at the elderly woman’s house, Kinney realized that the sparking light was just one of a laundry list of issues inside of Scott’s deteriorating house. Kinney fixed the light and left, but the kindhearted electrician couldn’t stop thinking about Scott’s living conditions. It wasn’t long before Kinney made his decision – he was going to help make this 72-year-old’s house livable.
“I knew she needed help and I knew she wasn’t going to ask for it,” Kinney told CNN.
The problems lurking within the home of this elderly woman were not only unpleasant, they were downright dangerous. There were holes in her ceiling where wild animals were living, Scott left her water turned off for days at a time because her kitchen sink would spray boiling-hot water – the only shelter the 72-year-old had was unsafe.
Kinney returned to Scott’s house the following week and got to work, without asking for anything in return. In fact, some of Kinney’s friends stepped up as well to help their elderly neighbor with her yard work. Though Kinney was willing to work for free, the materials needed for the repairs were expensive. Instead of asking Scott to cover the costs, Kinney turned to his community.
He started a fundraising page, asking for support to help his struggling neighbor who was quietly living in unsafe conditions.
Kinney explained on the fundraiser’s Facebook page, “Last week, I met a nice old woman that lives all alone in Woburn. She has no internet or cell phone. When sparks started shooting out of her light fixture, she went to a neighbor, and they gave her my number. When I arrived at her house I discovered that the electrical was in very bad shape. Half her lights were out, she had no stove, and her refrigerator was plugged into an extension cord. I fixed her immediate electrical hazards and got her lights and air conditioning on.”
The post continued, “When all the lights came on, I saw that her ceilings were falling apart, her kitchen sink was broken, and that the place was filthy. She told me that critters often got in the house. The outside was no better. Gutters were falling down and it was surrounded by a jungle. She has no family, and money is tight. I got some volunteers together and we went in there and did a ton of yard work and cleanup. Everyone did an amazing job, and this nice old woman was very grateful. It’s simply just not enough though.”
Kinney stated that he was looking only for enough funds to cover the cost of materials, as he had a network of professionals willing to help with the labor for free. It wasn’t long before the community stepped up, bigger and louder than Kinney ever anticipated. In just over a month, the fundraiser collected over $100,000.
Outside of the financial support, volunteers showed up to help. Restaurants donated meals. Complete strangers contributed materials for the multitude of projects that needed to be done within Scott’s home. An entire community banded together to help a complete stranger, generously giving both time and money to make sure Gloria Scott had a safe place to live.
From the beautiful outpouring of support, Gloria’s Gladiators was born. Kinney created the group to fight for community members who are unable to fight for themselves, and in the short duration of the group’s existence, it’s accumulated over 6,000 members.
“We are a group of professional tradesmen and volunteers that can be called upon to help out any elderly person in need,” the group’s Facebook Page states.
Gloria Scott was one of many elderly individuals living in less-than-ideal conditions, and like many, she had nobody to turn to when she needed help. Kinney hopes that Gloria’s Gladiators will amp up support for people just like her around the country, ensuring that none of our elderly neighbors will be forced to endure dangerous living conditions.
“She reminds me of my grandmother,” Kinney told CNN. “My daughter has bonded with her, my wife has bonded with her. It doesn’t stop here. Gloria is a part of my life.”
One light fixture sparked an entire movement, and the energy and behind Gloria’s Gladiators is so powerful, so tangible – it’s almost electric.