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Gainesville couple looks for work, but remains optimistic

POSTED: April 17, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Sharon and Jerry Kelly know the pain of being unemployed better than most.

After The Times published an article on Jan. 9 about Jerry Kelly, a Gainesville arborist who was paralyzed after falling from a tree in 2008, readers wanted to know how to help Kelly and his wife, Sharon, with financial burdens brought on by his injury.

Both continue to search for jobs, and are in the process of selling their home in Cresswind, a Gainesville community for active people 55 and older.

"We’re still continuing to try to find work and sell the house and be able to get out of this high tax bracket that we’re in," said Sharon, who lost her job as a storage facility manager last spring.

Now a Certified Nursing Assistant, she said she is finding the job search difficult since her bad back prevents her from working at a nursing home.

A $7,000 property tax bill has compounded the couple’s financial problems and spurred them to sell the house.

Jerry, who is a quadriplegic with movement only in his right arm, continues to be hopeful that his condition will improve.

"They say after two years, probably after that you’re not going to see more movement, but I have news for people. That’s not the end for me," Jerry said.

Soon, Jerry will undergo a fourth surgery on his right arm, which has improved past the two-year date.

"I’m able to raise it halfway up to my shoulder," he said, crediting God and his own hard work for the increased movement.

"I don’t know what god people believe in, but I know my God up above is an awesome God, and because of him, I’m here today," he said.

Jerry said he wants to take his never-give-up attitude to the stage, possibly becoming employed as a motivational speaker or using his experience to encourage safety in the arborist industry.

Before his accident, he was a foreman — a liaison between home owners and arborists — and Jerry said safety was his number one priority.

After recent weeks’ storms, he saw several safety errors that could have been easily corrected.

"It really frustrated me (this morning) watching the news on one of the channels," he said.

"There was a gentleman up in the tree. He had no hard hat, no safety glasses, wasn’t wearing safety lanyards, stuff like that.

"I just wanted to crawl through the TV screen and yell at this guy."

Jerry has had a couple of opportunities so far to share his advice on safety, with the chance to speak at the North American Tree Climbing Championship in February, and an article he wrote on how to use safety lines that will be published in the May issue of Arborist News.

"It’s not the end of the world when you get hurt, or when something negative happens to you," Jerry said. "You can make that into a positive, and that’s what I’m really trying to do."

If you would like to contact the Kellys, you can email them at sharjer5751@aol.com.

An account was set up under Sharon’s name at the Gainesville branches of BB & T.

You can donate at any BB & T location, regardless of whether you are an account holder, by requesting that the teller direct your funds to the account of Sharon E. Kelly.



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