7/23/2010 6:13:00 PM Like Jesus, the carpenter Knights build answer to Medford family's prayers
Prayers Answered – Maria Sangataldo invited her pastor, Msgr. James Dubell of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, to bless her new handicapped accessible ramp and porch. Also pictured are Maria’s parents, Gina and Andy, and two brothers, Nicolas, left, and Vincent. Monitor photo by Mary Stadnyk
Work of Art – This photo shows an overview of the ramp and porch that was built in front of the Sangataldo family’s Medford home by members of the Knights of Columbus. Photo courtesy of Charles Kojeski
As far as Andy and Gina Sangataldo are concerned, the newly-built covered porch and ramp in front of their home is much more than a means for making life easier for them. They are answers to their prayers.
Through the efforts of many – including members of the St. Mary of the Lakes Council, Knights of Columbus, Medford – the Sangataldos were able to make necessary structural changes to the outside of their Medford home to accommodate the special needs of their 10-year-old daughter, Maria, and her new 300-pound electric wheelchair.
Otherwise, the only way Maria, who has cerebral palsy, was able to safely get in and out of the front door was to have her parents carry her.
Andy Sangataldo said the process for acquiring a ramp and porch began about two years ago when Maria started to outgrow her wheelchair. While she would be eligible to receive a new wheelchair that would be covered by insurance, financial assistance would not be provided for any renovations that would be needed in order to accommodate the new wheelchair.
Sangataldo said the estimated costs for the renovations averaged from $15,000 to $24,000, which was well beyond his family’s ability to afford. The family had also exhausted their home equity loan on other renovations that were made to the first floor of the house – replacing the carpeting with tile and hardwood flooring “so that Maria could maneuver in her walker,” enlarging the halfbath, widening the doorways to the various rooms, plus the electrical rewiring and plumbing in the kitchen and bathroom. Several years ago, he added, the garage had been converted into a therapy room for Maria.
Sangataldo, who is a member of the Knights, said that last November, he and the family were at a parish community Sunday gathering in St. Mary of the Lakes after Mass when he learned about the council’s various fundraisers, such as the Tootsie Roll drive to help special needs children.
It was also when Sangataldo was put into contact with a brother Knight, Charles Kojeski, who is also general contractor and president of Kojeski Construction in Voorhees.
Kojeski visited the Sangataldo home and, similar to other estimates they received, gave a projected cost of $22,500 for the project — $12,500 for materials and $10,000 for labor.
But then, “Charlie went above and beyond” and through his connections in the construction business, he contacted a lumber company and supply house, both of which provided materials “at cost” and obtained a donation of concrete, said Sangataldo.
It was also through his membership in the New Jersey Builders Association that he was able to apply for a $10,000 Foundation for Housing handicapped accessibility grant.
“I didn’t know if we would get the grant, but on Christmas Eve, Charlie called and said, ‘Merry Christmas, we got the grant,’” said Sangataldo.
To help further defray expenses, Kojeski said that the Sangataldos also received another $2,500 grant from the Association for Retarded Citizens. As for the remaining $10,000 charge for labor, the Knights of Columbus members and Kojeski’s employees “donated it,” said Kojeski.
“Everyone who worked on the project was fantastic,” Kojeski said, noting that the work on the house was usually done on Fridays and Saturdays and that no less than 10 to 12 Knights would turn out to help.
“Some of these guys had no clue as to what they were doing,” whether it was pouring concrete or putting up a roof, said Kojeski, “but they just came. It was a lot of hard work, but it was a great project.”
To celebrate the completion of the new ramp and porch and as a way to thank all who worked on the renovations, Maria, along with her parents and two brothers, Nicholas, 12, and Vincent, 4, hosted an outdoor celebration on a Sunday afternoon in May.
Among the invited guests were Msgr. James Dubell, pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, who led a prayer service and blessing of the porch, Father John Chang, parochial vicar, and a host of family and longtime friends.
“I keep saying it and saying it, this happened all through the Blessed Mother’s intervention,” said Andy Sangataldo.
“Gina and I have always said the Rosary and we prayed, but we got to the point where we started to pray more fervently. It’s like we said to God, ‘Look, you gave Maria to us, now we need you to give us the means for us to take care of her,’” Sangataldo said, then proudly went on to say that even though Maria’s most pronounced delay is in her motor skill abilities and she needs to use a communication device, “She’s as smart as a whip.”
“Cognitively, she’s 150 percent,” he said, with a smile. “She knows what’s going on. We can’t put anything past her.”
He added that she goes to school and will be in the fourth grade come September. As for the new porch and ramp, Sangataldo once again reiterated how his family’s prayers were answered.
“The Blessed Mother stepped in with the Knights of Columbus,” he said. “Things fell into place. Here we were trying to force things our way, but God did it his way. God put people in our lives at the right time, and these guys showed so much caring and love as they worked with us to help our daughter.”
“You could say the Knights were Jesus in action,” Sangataldo added. “They were doing the work of Jesus.”