Making a Difference 100 Masks at a Time

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[Altamonte Springs, FL] — After making the front page of the Sanford Herald for supplying hundreds of masks to first responders, fire departments, and hospitals, Altamonte Springs Branch Manager Fred Cantres, Sanford Outside Sales Rep Bill Kelton, and Samuel Perez of Sanford Warehouse and Counter Sales were getting ready to help another kind of hero.

“On May 1, shortly after the story appeared in the paper, I got a letter from Edward Rubacha,” Fred said. “He’s a U.S Army veteran, and in the letter, he told us that he was struggling to get masks for his son, Brian, who is a person with Down syndrome and has some respiratory issues. He said he just needed some help of any kind.”

For months, ever since the quarantine precautions went into place, Edward couldn’t find a mask for his son, Brian. To keep his family safe, he only ventured out when they needed food or supplies. Every time he went out, he looked at every store that might keep masks in stock but came up empty-handed.

“In the letter, he mentioned that he couldn’t take his son to his doctor’s appointments without a mask, and he was just looking for some face protection of any kind. After reading the letter, we felt compelled to help him and his family,” Fred said.

So, Fred let Bill and Samuel Perez know, and they immediately began to gather supplies for Edward and his family. In the end, they were able to put together 100 masks and two large bottles of hand sanitizer.

“He took the time to write the letter, so we wanted to do everything we could to help,” Fred said. “You don’t need an excuse to give back to someone who needs it. My mom always told me to lend a helping hand. If I see someone who is down and out and needs help and I’m able to do it, I am going to reach out to see what I can do.”

“This is what it’s all about,” said Bill Kelton. “Once Fred received the letter, we got together to get those supplies as soon as possible.”

After everyone gathered the supplies, Fred made a 30-minute drive that same evening to Sanford where Edward and his family lived. Although he didn’t have the number to call them ahead of time, he had the address from the letter.

“I was shocked,” Edward Rubacha said. “When I wrote the letter, I wasn’t sure I would receive a response. But that evening, Brian and I answered the door and there was Fred! It was unbelievable. Brian was so excited, he just kept saying ‘Thank you, thank you!’ We were so grateful for what they did.”

“To see the smile on their faces was enough for me,” Fred said. “I got to meet Brian, Edward’s son, and I saw them open the box of supplies together. They were very thankful. Someone came through for them in their time of need, and they just showed a lot of gratitude for that.”

The masks meant more than just protection for Edward and his family. Not only did it mean that things could start going back to normal for the family, at least a little bit, but it also meant that finally Brian could get in-person care instead of working with the doctor over the phone to adjust medication and dosages.

“These masks made it possible for Brian to go out of the house and see his doctor, which he couldn’t do before,” Edward said. “Before the masks, we didn’t go out at all. But since then, Brian has been to several doctor’s appointments. We’re still being cautious and staying safe, but now there’s a little bit more freedom for my son to go outside.”

It all started when Edward heard about the original story of CES helping first responders.

“I saw the story on the front page of the Sanford Herald, and I saw how they were helping people,” he said. “I thought, all I need is just one mask to help my son. I wasn’t worried about myself. But one mask could help my son. They went above and beyond to help us. I still can’t thank them enough.”

The weeks and months leading up to that moment weren’t easy for Edward and Brian. Because of Brian’s respiratory issues, they had to stay at home as much as possible. Fortunately, in the end, everything came together, and Edward’s letter found the right people to help him get what he needed when he needed it most.

“It meant a lot that Fred came all the way to us. It wasn’t like they said, ‘Come to us.’ He literally showed up at my door. We spent some time after that just talking and getting to know one another. He is like an extended part of the family now,” he said.

As for Fred, Bill, and Samuel, they just did what they would want anyone else in their shoes to do: help people.

“Right now, there are a lot of people who need help. Be there for them. Do not be afraid to lend a helping hand to them. It will always come back to you,” Fred said.

Now, most of all, Edward is relieved, and he is looking forward to returning the favor as soon as possible, whether it’s by helping around a CES branch or by giving some of his time to helping someone else.

“They didn’t need to do this, but they did. It was out of the kindness of their heart. It’s something I’ll always remember,” he reflected. “I just hope everyone knows that you shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask for help. If you need help, keep reaching out, you never know who will be there for you. And if you can help, keep doing it. For every person that doesn’t need help, there are two people who do.”

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