Hector DiPietra-Santa of Searsmont is not the sort of person who misses appointments, but on the day a reporter was to interview him, he left a message apologizing at length that he had to cancel in order to help an acquaintance with a disability.

On another day recently, he took a friend who suffers from depression to get a haircut. During the cold months, he regularly gave rides to a pair of Belfast residents who do not have a car. And for the last three months he has been making regular trips to Bangor to help cheer a friend who was recently paralyzed.

To hear a description of DiPietra-Santa’s week is to hear an apparently endless catalog of good deeds. When he and the reporter did finally meet, he greeted him as though the reporter had recently done something to help him. His presence was outgoing and warm, his sense of humor welcoming, and above all he radiated humility. His accomplishments were the reporter’s and he was thanking the reporter for them.

DiPietra-Santa was born in Mexico to an Italian father and a Mexican mother. Two years ago, he came to Maine from Illinois with Kathy Gearty, whom he describes as his “best friend.” DiPietra-Santa was supposed to stay for two weeks to help Gearty set up her house.

“But here I am, two years later,” he wrote in a statement provided to VillageSoup, “sharing with new, wonderful and unique people many new experiences, knowledge and friendship.” DiPietra-Santa’s English is better than he gives himself credit for, and he continues to take adult education classes at Belfast Area High School to improve his grasp of the language. The statement, he said, was so he could tell the story of his friend Nick DeFrancesco, and his own story, as clearly as possible.

DeFrancesco, a custodian at the Waldo County YMCA, was paralyzed Feb. 12 as the result of a fall he took while watching a match at the Belfast Curling Club. Prior to his injury, he and DiPietra-Santa had become friends. Both shared Italian ancestry and as DiPietra-Santa described it, they shared some common interests.

Immediately after the accident, DeFrancesco was transported by helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. Upon arrival, his wife, Patricia Alley, asked him if there was anyone he wanted her to contact. DeFrancesco said he wanted to see his friend Hector.

“When this happened to Nick I called him [DiPietra-Santa] right away,” she said. “He’s been nothing but supportive. He’s really been a great friend.”

Over the next few months, DiPietra-Santa visited DeFrancesco regularly, and, sympathizing with the plight of his friend, who, as he pointed out, could not brush a fly from his own face, began to think of ways that he could cheer him up.

Using a digital camera, DiPietra-Santa took short videos of YMCA staff members extending their well-wishes to DeFrancesco, compiled the clips and uploaded them to a digital picture frame for DeFrancesco to view. In a separate video, DiPietra-Santa bought a pig puppet and filmed it in the YMCA as a comic suggestion that the place had become a pigsty since DeFrancesco had left. As DiPietra-Santa described it, the pig said, “Nick, we need you!”

For Easter, DiPietra-Santa outdid himself, or at least he tried to. Aiming to do something silly, he ordered a rental bunny costume in which he planned to appear at DeFrancesco’s bedside. But when the costume arrived, it was sized for a small woman or a child. The words DiPietra-Santa used were, “baby pajamas.”

“They’re going to think you’re a pervert,” he said, recalling how he had considered trying to squeeze into the costume. Ultimately, someone else wore the costume, though DiPietra-Santa posed for several photos wearing the headpiece.

DiPietra-Santa said he saw DeFrancesco, a war veteran, as a hero.

“It’s important to keep his dignity,” he said. He has been encouraged by the support shown toward DeFrancesco by the community, but said he worried that it would soon dwindle as the accident became, for most people, a distant memory. “Down the road, they’re going to need a lot of help,” he said. “He’s already showing signs of improvement, but he’s still considered a quadriplegic.

Since then DeFrancesco has been moved to Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, Conn., where Alley reports that he has made dramatic progress. He has been able to stand for a period of seven minutes with the help of therapists, but she said he is still having trouble moving his arms, a skill she hopes he will ultimately regain.

“That’s what we’re aiming for and hoping for and praying for,” she said, “for him to be able to walk and to feed himself again.”

Alley said doctors now believe that patients with spinal injuries can show improvements for up to five years after the initial trauma.

DiPietra-Santa set up collection cans at several locations in Belfast and Searsmont to raise money for Alley’s transportation costs to and from Bangor every day. He also organized a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at his church, St. Francis of Assisi, in Belfast.

DiPietra-Santa gives much of his time to helping people in need, and in conversation he emphasizes the importance of small acts of kindness. From his time in Maine, he has observed that often the people who need help most won’t ask for it, out of a strong sense of self-reliance.

David Maxcy, a carpenter and former firefighter who lives in Belfast, became friends with DiPietra-Santa in an English class both were attending. A hereditary shoulder problem exacerbated over a number of years by hard labor caused Maxcy to lose most of the use of his right arm.

DiPietra-Santa began to help Maxcy on occasion. When he learned that the house in which Maxcy lives had a faulty boiler that was leaking carbon monoxide, he suggested Maxcy contact WaldoCAP. The agency ultimately replaced the boiler, but DiPietra-Santa went one step further, contacting the television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in hope of getting additional improvements done to Maxcy’s home.

For Maxcy, who was used to helping other people, the attention was unusual but much appreciated.

“This is the first time in my whole life that anyone’s gone to this extent to help me,” he said.

DiPietra-Santa said he hoped to open a community center for young people, and he wanted to help promote Belfast as a tourist destination. Another initiative relating to the purchase and donation of a large amount of computer equipment is in the works, but DiPietra-Santa said he did not want to divulge the recipient, a public institution, until the effort was further along.

In his written statement, he summed up his philosophy of charity in this way: “I know it is a difficult time … but sometimes supporting people with our time, listening and [being with them] with an open heart, is more important than material things. I’m not an important person, I am a simple, small tool, a soda opener, God sent me to people who have thirst and they can’t open their own bottle. … The power of one individual to make a profound difference in another person’s life makes the difference.”

A benefit supper and auction to raise money toward the medical expenses of Nick DeFrancesco will be held Friday, May 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Tarratine Redmen Hall in Belfast. The organizers are seeking donations for the auction. To donate, contact Hector DiPietra-Santa at (224) 489-2725, Kathy Gearty at (224) 305-2908, or Sue Lapham at the Waldo County YMCA 338-4598.

On Feb. 12, DeFrancesco slipped, fell and broke his neck on the sideline while waiting to participate in a game at the Belfast Curling Club. He is paralyzed from the shoulders down. The doctors presently diagnose him as quadriplegic.

If you cannot donate now but would like to make a donation at a later date, contact Sue Lapham at the Waldo County YMCA, 338-4598.