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Neighbors pitch in to shovel for elderly, disabled in Bay View

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jan 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-23 19:27:13-05

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner has confirmed another death from shoveling.

A 68-year-old man died after collapsing on the south side Wednesday. It is the third shoveling death in four days.

There is help for the elderly, disabled and anyone else with health issues, who cannot — or should not — be out shoveling in these conditions.

“I do whatever I can to help people out,” said Cullen Folts, who lives in Sherman Park but grew up in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood.

“I started shoveling for neighbors and friends on the south side when I was 16,” he said. “Then last year, I decided to expand that. It all started with a Facebook post, showing a picture of myself and offering to shovel for people who need help.”

Folts shovels for anyone who can’t — at no cost, or whatever money they can spare. Sometimes he finds some friends to help him.

“I’m a handyman and have some regular clients who pay,” he said. “It pays my bills and keeps my van running. I make enough to get by. That’s all I need. It feels good to do this.”

“It pays my bills and keeps my van running. I make enough to get by. That’s all I need. It feels good to do this.” — Cullen Folts

Word continues to spread quickly. On snow days, Folts will get 100 messages from people and shovel around the clock.

“Clients have become friends,” he said. “I help them any time they need something. They know to call. Mainly elderly and those who are wheelchair-bound or disabled.”

“We text message back and forth,” said Teresa Otzelberger, 75, whose husband passed away a little more than a year ago. “My grandson is serving in the military overseas, and my granddaughter is away at college. I needed help. Someone referred me to Cullen, and I couldn’t be more thankful. He works so hard and will come at any hour.”

Otzelberger pays him what she can, and leaves soda and snacks for him in a cooler outside her door.

“Knowing I’m helping, and seeing people like Teresa smile, is why I do this,” Folts said. “I guess the message I’m trying to live, and example I’m trying to set, is be the change you want to see in the world.”