KINGMAN - Francisco Balvastro was driving to his daughter's house in Iowa to celebrate the holidays when a car accident during a snowstorm left him paralyzed from the waist down.
The accident left him wheelchair-bound and depressed. He says he felt like sitting at home all day watching television or just playing guitar. But his family, including his wife, Maria, and their five now-adult children and 10 grandchildren, pushed him along and gave him the strength he needed to take his life back into his own hands.
Now Balvastro, 59, volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul in downtown Kingman, where he shows up three to four times a week to help break down boxes and do other work. He is going on his third year with the organization.
"We call him our 'Speedy Gonzales,'" said Paulette Dollarhide, district president for the organization.
The St. Vincent de Paul society is a faith-based organization that provides help to the needy, which can include everything from providing money for utility bills to providing emergency non-perishable food. The organization runs a thrift store to help support operations.
Balvastro "drives" the three blocks to St. Vincent's on his motorized wheelchair. He believes volunteering has helped improve his range of motion.
"It's like therapy for me," he said.
Balvastro, who is from Nogales, Mexico, worked in masonry most of his life. His father taught him the construction trade. On April 21, 2008, Balvastro became a U.S. citizen. He said he is proud to live in Kingman and finds the people here much nicer than places he's been in the past.
Dollarhide said Balvastro has become a part of the St. Vincent de Paul family.
"He is a Godsend," she said.