Thursday, November 23, 2017 Elyria 29°


Grafton couple receives yardwork assistance from MS Society


GRAFTON — The 15 to 20 bags stuffed with leaves and yard debris in the driveway of the pleasant-looking brown house with yellow trim was ample evidence of the work already done by noon Thursday.

Inside, a team of volunteers from a Berea manufacturer of windows and sunrooms was taking a pizza lunch break.

“This is phenomenal,” Dan Pennington said from a recliner where he listened to and talked with the half-dozen workers from Joyce Factory Direct who spent several hours sprucing up the front and backyards of the ranch-style home of Pennington and his wife, Rita, a longtime Chronicle-Telegram advertising sales representative.

“We really appreciate all that you’ve done,” Dan Pennington said. “Thank you.”

Like most folks, the Penningtons would normally tackle their own yardwork and other needed house repairs if they could.

Dan Pennington has contended with multiple sclerosis for 30 years, which gradually reduced his mobility and ability to take care of his home.

Rita Pennington, her husband’s chief caregiver, is out of commission for six to eight weeks as she recovers from surgery for a torn rotator cuff.

“I’m used to doing things, but I knew I just couldn’t do this,” Rita Pennington said of yard work and other tasks on her agenda.

First diagnosed with MS in 1983 after he began experiencing problems with his vision, Dan Pennington said he had “a 10-year window from the first diagnosis to when it was full-blown MS.”

Before MS began to limit his work, Dan Pennington worked as a graphic artist for Ritter Sign Co., a family-owned business in Lorain that he joined in 1968. “I became part of the family.”

“He used to hang off buildings and put billboards on the side of mountains,” Rita recalled.

The Penningtons’ love of boating is evident in their living room, where Dan Pennington’s handsomely-detailed model of a sailing ship is displayed, along with sculptures of boat hulls and a whale.

Knowing their yard, roof and gutters were full of leaves and other debris courtesy of the 20-plus oak trees dotting their property, the couple wanted to get it all cleaned up but couldn’t do it themselves.

That’s when Rita Pennington read about the “What a Difference a Day Makes” program of the Ohio Buckeye Chapter of the National MS Society, which sets up work projects by volunteers who travel to the homes of people contending with MS who are unable to do yard work, painting and projects such as building ramps.

Rita Pennington contacted Tosh Tripi with the area MS Society chapter, who in turn contacted a team of employees at Joyce Factory Direct, a Berea company founded in 1955 that produces siding, roofing, gutters and deck enclosures in Northeast Ohio, Charlotte, N.C., and St. Louis, Mo.

Elaine Deidrick, a Joyce Factory Direct employee who organized the team of volunteers, is no stranger to MS: Her husband also has the disease. An uncle, who recently died, also had MS.

Deidrick and her team put in several hours to transform the yard into a tidy landscape.

After they discovered mud-clogged gutters on the rear of the house, the team announced their company would donate the costs and labor of installing new gutters on the home.

“We’ve had help from friends and neighbors and relatives, and now this,” Rita Pennington said with obvious gratitude.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or

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