Right before Christmas, Heart2Heart volunteers delivered a bounty of food to senior Cecilia Gannon and her husband, James.
“The way Heart2Heart came to me to help was a miracle from God,” said Cecilia, who is 69. “I’ve always believed in miracles, but this past Christmas, I witnessed a true one.”
Battling homelessness and injuries
In October 2022, Cecilia and James were evicted without cause from their apartment. With their only family in New York City, they had nowhere to go. They ended up living in an Extended Stay Hotel with their three dogs.
Then they both suffered falls. Cecilia injured her spinal cord, which caused bad neck and back pain, and her legs are getting weaker.
James nearly died twice and suffered severe brain damage due to his injuries. Doctors said they don’t know how he is still alive.
The hospital bills drained their savings. While James was still in the ICU, Cecilia began living in her truck with their dogs.
One day at 4 a.m., there was a knock on the window. They had fallen behind on payments, and the truck was being repossessed.
All the stress wreaked havoc on Cecilia’s body. She didn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. She lost 45 pounds from the stress.
“The heart doctor kept telling me to calm down because he was afraid I would have a stroke or a heart attack,” Cecilia said. “I got an ulcer and hypertension from all the stress. It was humiliating.”
People kept advising her to get rid of her dogs, but Cecilia couldn’t bear the thought.
“They keep me alive. They keep me afloat,” she said. “I wake up in the morning and they’re waiting for me. They’re part of my family, and to give them up – I just couldn’t.”
The last resort
Finally, in June 2023, the couple managed to secure an apartment in Pompano Beach. It isn’t much, and they still don’t have a bed, a couch or much furniture. But they are so grateful for a roof over their heads.
The couple lives on $925 a month, and their food stamps were cut to only $110 per month.
The week before Christmas, they were behind in rent, owed $424 for their electric bill, and they had been without food for 7 full days. A late-season heat wave made it feel like 100 degrees in their apartment.
Cecilia kept telling her husband they were going to die. He told her not to worry; things will work themselves out somehow.
Then their electricity was shut off. James needs a CPAP machine every two hours, and Cecilia has an oxygen concentrator for severe asthma. No electricity put both their lives in danger.
A kind neighbor saw Cecilia crying outside. He ran an extension cord through the window so they could run their machines.
Cecelia said it was hard to admit she needed help.
“I finally reached out because I wanted to die,” she said. “I could no longer accept the way I was living. I was giving up hope.”
Cecilia began calling every church she could find, asking for help. Time and again, she was told that they couldn’t help with rent or electricity. They could offer food, but only if Cecelia and James could come to them. The couple were still without a vehicle.
Then Cecilia remembered a friend mentioning Heart2Heart, years ago. She called, and while Heart2Heart couldn’t help with bills, volunteers were eager to bring the couple food.
When Heart2Heart staff asked what kinds of foods they’d want, Cecilia didn’t want to seem greedy. She requested just some simple things: chicken, broccoli, apples, paper products, and juice.
She could scarcely believe the bounty that volunteers brought her.
“I’ve never seen this in my life. You name it, I got it. My freezer was stuffed with chicken,” Cecilia said. “They brought me tons of fresh fruit and bread.”
Butter, cream cheese, cookies, a Christmas cake – the food kept coming. The couple had resorted to alternate forms of toilet paper because they had run out, but now they had stacks of paper towels and toilet paper.
“I need my juices because I’m anemic, and I was overwhelmed with juice,” Cecilia said.
Volunteer Paula Esenwa of Margate brought the couple bread, milk, bottled water, and special cookies. Paula said it was the least she could do, and she was so touched by Cecilia’s heartfelt response.
“She was just the sweetest,” Paula said. “She hugged me. She was just so elated, and there was a big smile on her face.”
Paula asked Cecilia if she could pray with her, and they prayed together right out in the yard.
“People waste time arguing and fussing over stuff that’s not important when we could use our time and energy to help others and be the hands and feet of Christ,” Paula said. “Driving away, I thought, ‘Thank you, Lord!’”
Another volunteer connected Cecilia with her church, Saint Coleman Catholic Church, which ended up paying their electrical bill in full. Cecilia was shocked.
“I had begun to think there were no good people in the world,” Cecilia said. “But then everyone who came prayed with me. They took my arms, they squeezed me, they kissed me on the forehead. Before they left, they said, ‘If you need anything, call us.’
“It was amazing.”
Cecelia and James still owe $1,038 in rent. But their landlord is willing to work with them, and they have food for a little while.
“It’s getting better due to the help of Heart2Heart and their volunteers,” Cecilia said.
One day when Cecilia has a car again, she hopes to volunteer with Heart2Heart so that she can give back like others gave to her.
To volunteer to help seniors in need, visit https://heart2heartoutreach.org/volunteer/.