Gerald "Jimmy" Ellis, a life-long Florence resident and decorated Marine veteran, lost his sole source of reliable transportation in a car fire Dec. 28.
Ellis, 60, had just returned home from a VA appointment in Colorado Springs when he smelled fuel. Just as he started to exit the vehicle, something in the engine exploded, catching Ellis' legs on fire and burning up the car's engine.
"I came out of that car engulfed in flames," Ellis said. "I pulled my coat over my head, I covered my face, and I came out of it."
Ellis sustained blistering and reddening on his body, but he did not seek medical treatment for this incident. However, he does require medical treatment regularly for other health and medical issues at the VA clinics in Colorado Springs and Denver.
Ellis currently lives on $600 a month, and he has been fighting for several years for his VA disability.
He said he has been deeply touched by so many people who have pitched in to help him, especially when those individuals don't really have much to give.
"That means a lot to me," he said. "Every little bit helps.
"All I want is to have a roof over my head, have a house, not go hungry and make it to my doctors, because with my medical issues, seeing my doctors is what is keeping me alive. I need to always be able to go to my doctors and to the hospital. I don't like it, but there's nothing I can do about it. It's just what has happened to me and the circumstances I have, and my life depends on it."