Community chipping in to aid in purchase of handicap-equipped vehicle for local woman

Published 3:31 pm Friday, June 5, 2015

By Morgan Burkett
The Greenville Advocate

Patton and Melissa Gunter didn’t know that their lives would be changed forever when Melissa left for work on Aug. 9 of last year.

That morning, Melissa was involved in a single car accident and was seriously injured. After being pinned in her totaled vehicle for almost an hour, she was air lifted to Baptist South Hospital in Montgomery. It was there that the doctors determined that she had received a severe spinal cord injury located at the T6 vertebrae.

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On Aug. 10, she was transported to UAB Hospital where she had a five-hour spinal cord procedure performed.

From there, the Fort Deposit native moved to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury and brain injury, to undergo intense and aggressive rehabilitation therapy.

The Gunter’s stayed there for nearly four months. At the Shepherd Center, Melissa dramatically increased her upper body strength and independence.

Melissa just finished her first semester at the University of Alabama’s distance rehabilitation counseling program. Her future plans are to earn her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling so she can help others with disabilities gain employment and become independent.

And Melissa has made plenty of steps in becoming more independent herself.

In late April, she passed her driving evaluation exam for the State of Alabama and had her license reinstated. Melissa’s new goal is to purchase a handicap-equipped vehicle so she can independently drive to Montgomery to work as a part-time job coach to assist disabled high school students transition from school to work. The cost of a fully handicap-equipped vehicle varies between $40,000 and $80,000.

Julie Autrey and Kairos Community Church have started a Go Fund Me Campaign to help Melissa raise money to assist with the purchase of a vehicle. The primary goal is $15,000. After 11 days, donations have added up to $3,860.

“As a close friend of the family, I would encourage everyone to reach out and support Melissa so she may be able to improve her quality of life,” said Autrey. “I feel like this will be the next step in increasing her mobility and help her move on in her career and life. It’s such a rewarding feeling to see your donations going towards a good cause that can effect someone’s life in such a positive way.”

Melissa said the donations have been a blessing.

“I’ve seen God working first hand through the people who have given donations and I am extremely grateful,” she said. “I am so blessed by God to be surrounded by such a wonderful community.”

To donate to Melissa’s new handicap-equipped vehicle fund, visit and enter 36037 into the search bar.