Snow, sleet, rain or shine, Gregg Ellis biked to work.
That was until a few weeks ago when the Rome Athletic Club gifted the 61-year-old with a van and paid for the first six months of his insurance.
Ellis was given his 2009 Chrysler Town and Country just days after his birthday and in time for the holidays.
“He would talk about his desire to get a car and would joke that he would be 70 before he got one,” the club’s general manager, Kelley Parker, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Before then, the custodial worker made the 2-mile bike ride to and from work, even in the reported 2-inch snowfall that recently hit Floyd County.
“He biked to work and (was) never late,” Parker said. “There was never a question if he’s going to be late or a no-show, even if it’s raining.”
Parker hired Ellis last summer and said he’d been down on his luck. Ellis had been living at a Salvation Army but outlasted his stay, she said.
The club then pulled together its resources to find him a room in a bed-and-breakfast-style home.
The seasons changed, but Ellis’ transportation remained the same.
“We’ve had members who’ve offered to take him home,” Parker said, “but (Ellis) doesn’t like to put people out or feel like he’s imposing.”
So, he biked.
As the months grew chilly, members gave him jackets, blankets and boots.
“We love and care for people,” Parker said, “and we look at our gym as not just a building with machines ... it’s like our family. When somebody is in need or hurting, we’re going to support them financially.”
And as winter grew more frigid, Parker got the idea to get Ellis a car.
“We didn’t know that we’d be able to do it,” she said.
After a post on their Facebook page asking for help, Parker said the club received numerous donations and offers to buy used cars before ultimately purchasing the van. Parker said the club kept Ellis out of the loop leading up to the reveal.
“He’s not on social media, so he didn’t see anything posted and we asked that people keep it to themselves,” Parker said. “I had to question him about his (driver’s) license and lied about needing him to do courier work so he’d get one. I was doing that ahead of time (to avoid) him wondering why I needed him to get a license.”
On Dec. 22, just days after his birthday, Ellis was presented with the van and at least $100 in gift cards for gas and other expenses. A week later, club employees took Ellis to get his license after a Rome eye doctor donated a free exam and glasses.
For the first time this year, Parker said, Ellis drove to work: “He was truly happy to be here and couldn’t believe how fast it took him to get to work.”
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