Veterans Relief Fund helps disabled Saugonian get wheelchair back on the street
By Mark E. Vogler
U.S. Navy veteran Chester Stentiford found himself cooped up inside his apartment since the spring because he couldn’t afford to fix his motorized scooter.
“Beginning in the spring, it was out of commission when I tried to use it,” said Stentiford, 69, a Saugus native who served four years during the Vietnam War era.
“It would cost me $150 to replace each of the two batteries and some other stuff I needed to get it going again,” he said. Stentiford also learned that his battery charger was defective.
“I just didn’t have the money to get it done, so I couldn’t use it.”
While Stentiford’s scooter was out of commission, he was confined to the small apartment. He would need a visit from a friend or relative to push his wheelchair if he wanted to leave his home and enjoy the outdoors. “I could take the [manual] wheelchair out myself, but couldn’t go very far.”
It took a couple of veteran buddies and a relatively unknown local fund for special emergencies to make Stentiford mobile again, according to Veterans’ Services Officer Jay Pinette. Stentiford reached out to a friend, Marine and National Guard veteran Marty Graney, who had initially gotten him the motor scooter from the Disabled American Veterans a few years earlier. Greater contacted Pinette, who researched what was available.
Pinette said he leaned that the Saugus Veterans Relief Fund was an option. “To my knowledge, that fund has never been used before,” Pinette said.
“I’m sure that situations like this were exactly why this fund was started. But it didn’t happen until Marty brought the situation to light,” he said.
Pinette credited the local Batteries + Bulbs store for offering some technical expertise and a Veterans’ discount on the batteries.
Graney worked with another friend and U.S. Navy veteran, Joe Dion, to handle the repair. With the help of Graney and Dion, Stentiford’s motorized scooter was working again.
“It was a godsend,” Stentiford said. “I don’t know what I’ve done without these guys. When the weather gets good, I can move around again out of the house.”
Dion, a 1962 Saugus High School graduate who served three years as a machinist mate in the Navy, said there needs to be more public awareness about the Saugus Veterans Relief Fund. “It’s a great program, but we need to get the knowledge about it out there and make it available to the veterans who need it,” said Dion, who is senior vice commander of American Legion Post 210.
“Now that he has the scooter, he’s regained the level of independence that he once had,” Pinette added.
“When all was said and done, Mr. Graney and Mr. Dion were able to return the scooter to operation, which provided Mr. Stentiford with a greater freedom and the ability to resume a more normal level of activity,” Pinette said.
The Saugus Veterans Relief Fund was established in 2016 as a result of legislation initiated by state Rep. Donald Wong. The new law helped create a voluntary method for the public to contribute to the relief fund when they pay their taxes. There is a check-off box on the tax form that can be used to direct additional funds to the relief fund. The purpose of the fund is to provide support for Veterans and their dependents facing more immediate/emergent needs with food, transportation, heating repair/expenses and other emergency needs. The fund was envisioned to provide a one-time infusion of funds in urgent/emergency conditions, according to Pinette.
For more information about the fund, town residents who think they may be eligible should contact Pinette at the Veterans’ Service Office at Town Hall. They can reach him at 781-231-4010 or email him at email@example.com.