Helping Out 'Mayor Mike'

Helping Out Mayor MikeABC
Neighbors in Waukesha, Ws. have rallied behind "Mayor" Mike Salter who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and has no health insurance.

Every day is a struggle for Mike Salter.

Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2005, he is facing a lifetime of medical woes, compounded by mounting financial worries. And like 50 million other Americans, Salter does not have health insurance.

But he does have something many of those 50 million don't -- his neighborhood. Residents who surround the house Salter has lived in on and off for some 60 years have now rallied behind the man they call the unofficial mayor of their block in Waukesha, Wis. He's half local historian, half surrogate grandfather.

VIDEO: Man with Parkinsons disease gets some help from his neighbors.Play

Click here to see all of "Good Morning America's" "At Your House" coverage.

"Mike brings everybody together," neighbor Kelly Schmitt said. "I think without Mike we might not have had that sense of community that we have."

Neighbor Gina Maas agreed, calling Salter "a very sensitive, dear man. A great neighbor."

"The neighbors treat me like an extended family member, which I greatly appreciate," Salter said.

After getting an MBA from Harvard University, Salter spent years traveling the world as a representative for an electronics company. It was last fall's stock market dive that undid his careful planning. His IRA fund was cut in half, forcing him to drop the health insurance that cost him $500 a month.

Now his neighbors are helping out, performing tasks that would otherwise cost Salter money that would further threaten his ability to stay in the North Racine Avenue home he has loved for decades.

"He really does bring everyone together, and it's a wonderful thing," Schmitt said.

Neighbors have competed over who gets to water his plants, clean out his gutters, escort him to the drugstore, trim his beard.

Help a Neighbor, Save a Life

Experts say the neighborhood reaction to Salter's struggles should be mimicked -- as it's the kind of response that can save lives.

"People who are socially isolated are twice as likely to die of all causes as people who very well integrated socially," said David Spiegel at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "If family is there, great, but community is another tremendous source of support, and it's tangible and it makes a real difference."

In an e-mail to "GMA," Schmitt wrote that "all of the neighbors help him by taking him grocery shopping and to doctors' appointments," and also help with snow removal, grass cutting "and anything else we can help out with. People take their time to extend their help and compassion for one another. If we are ever in need, we know our neighbors will be there to help."

Salter, whose mother died of Parkinson's disease, said it shows that everyone needs to be reminded to say hello to their neighbors, to smile and check in on them. It really can be priceless.

"The lesson is you open up and care about your neighbors.They're gonna care back," Salter said. "It's difficult to value such a wonderful thing. In a true sense, it's God's world of love your neighbor, and love your neighbor is the right way to live life."