Mar. 25—Vietnam veteran James Koch had his hair cut, apartment cleaned, clothes washed and refrigerator stocked Wednesday after a Decatur ambulance crew saw his needs and put out a call on social media.
"He just needed a little help," said Maisie Vance, a First Response paramedic. "He's going to have a much better and safer life now."
Vance and her First Response partner, EMT Mayra Alejandra, transported Koch, 74, to his Decatur apartment March 17 after he had spent about a week at Decatur Morgan Hospital. They found a cluttered apartment and refrigerator that was empty except for a moldy salad and diet soda and no clean clothes. Koch, a widower, relies on a walker.
"I believe the Lord put it on my heart to help him," said Vance, who brought food to Koch that same day, picked up his medications the next day and brought him a change of clothes.
Koch, who has lived in Decatur for about six years and whose daughter and stepson live in other states, has COPD and found out while he was hospitalized that he also has congestive heart failure.
Vance, a paramedic for 21 years, described Koch's plight last week in a Facebook post, which was shared by her friend City Councilman Hunter Pepper and others. The response included offers to help clean Koch's apartment on Wednesday and stock his refrigerator and shelves.
Koch, a Cleveland native, acknowledged that without the help of the volunteers to work with him on lining up services of local nonprofits, "I'd be in trouble, more trouble. I just can't believe all the people who are out here," he said.
Volunteers who came to clean Koch's apartment and wash his clothes were Vance and her husband, Matt; First Response supervisor and EMT Rebecca Hill and paramedic Phyllis Teague and Pepper. Ashlee Smith, the owner of the local MaidPro franchise, and four employees were also on hand to help with the cleaning.
Vance said people also donated new towels, sheets and bath mats, cleaning supplies and food.
"It's all a volunteer effort," said Pepper. "It shows there are people who care" and what can be accomplished when they work together as a team.
Debbie Graham, the owner of John's Barber Shop, who has been cutting Koch's hair since he moved to Decatur in 2016, came by to give him a haircut and manicure.
"He's too proud to ask anyone for help," Graham said, trimming Koch's beard as he sat in a chair outside his apartment in Southeast Decatur.
"I hate to be a burden," Koch said.
First Response Chief Operating Officer Jason Tindal said Vance frequently helps others in need.
"She is remarkable, and she has the biggest heart," Tindal said. "When she sees someone like this who has a need, her heart is in the right place and she does the right thing."
As Koch watched the volunteers at work, he said: "They're amazing, they really are. I don't know any other way to describe them."
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