“While they’re taking care of our homeland, we’re taking care of their homes.”
When the President announced that the United States was about to invade Iraq, hundreds of thousands of our country’s men and women were called to active duty. As our troops began their deployment, The Home Depot realized that 1,700 of its own associates were called to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Looking for a way to help the families of their deployed associates and family members of deployed military nationwide, The Home Depot partnered with Rebuilding Together in a national campaign called Project Homefront. Launched April 4, 2003, this program is designed to help military families repair and maintain their homes while a family member remains deployed.
The partnership, made possible through a $1 million financial commitment by The Home Depot and one million volunteer hours through its Team Depot, and facilitated through the national network of Rebuilding Together’s affiliates, was a natural. “Our organization has partnered with The Home Depot for many years in rehabilitating homes for those in need. Through Project Homefront, we hope to meet the most pressing home improvement needs that military families may encounter during these trying times,” stated Patricia R. Johnson, President & CEO of Rebuilding Together.
Rebuilding Together is the nation’s largest, all-volunteer organization whose sole mission is to provide safety, security and home rehabilitation to those in need. Its network of 252 affiliates have all of the volunteers, partnerships, and tools in place to get Project Homefront off the ground instantaneously.
Since the program’s launch, Rebuilding Together and volunteers from Team Depot have helped over 800 military family members by completing some 300 home repairs. And the effort continues. Even though the war has officially been declared a victory, it appears our service men and women will remain in Iraq for some time to come. Rebuilding Together is committed to be there to offer services as long as funding allows.
How have the families been helped?
Meet the “Miracle Marine” – Hector Delgado, Jr., a 23-year old U. S. Marine, was severely injured during his deployment. Hector was one of the lucky ones. Called the “Miracle Marine,” Hector survived after a half-filled, 8,000-gallon tank rolled over on him. Not sure if he would survive his injuries, Hector was first taken aboard the USS Comfort and then flown to the Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he has undergone more than ten operations.
Learning of Project Homefront, an officer at Bethesda Naval phoned Sol Goldstein, the executive director of Rebuilding Together Long Island and asked for help. Hector would soon be released from Bethesda and returned to his parents’ home in Long Island. Even though Hector was recovering from many of his injuries, he would be confined to a wheel chair until he learned to walk again. This meant that the Delgados needed to provide their son with a place for comfort and rehabilitation, and a home that was accessible to his new needs.
The Long Island affiliate flew into action, assembling a team of volunteers and a crew from a local plumbing contractor that donated all of their labor to rehab the Delgado home and ready it for their son’s return. A ramp was built so that Hector could move in and out of the house with ease. The first floor bathroom was completely remodeled – the door widened and all new appliances installed making it fully wheel chair accessible. Doors were widened throughout the home, electrical wiring moved, and a direct access from the garage into the first floor installed.
Needless to say, the Delgados are thrilled. Their son has just arrived at a rehabilitation facility in Long Island and will soon be returning to their home. And the home is ready for his arrival. “We cannot thank the volunteers enough for all of their kindness and all they have they have done to support our son, Hector,” said Pilar Delgado, Hector’s mother.
Two shining stars
The two stars in her window represented her two sons – one in the Navy, one in the Air Force, both serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Marlyss Murray, a homemaker in Tulsa, was so proud of her sons. But their deployment meant that Marlyss might not get the roof she needed. Marlyss had been in need of a new roof for a long time. Her sons were going to help replace it but they were called to duty. Then Marlyss was going to take on the task herself, but she got hurt.
“After I got hurt, I wasn’t able to afford a new roof. I had pretty much given up all hope,” Marlyss said. Little did she know that the two stars in her window would bring her that new roof.
The Rebuilding Together affiliate in Tulsa assembled volunteers from A-Best Roofs, Sherwin-Williams, State Farm Insurance, Arc Supply, Metro Housing CD, and The Home Depot, and not only replaced Marlyss’ roof but painted the entire exterior of her home, put in new front and rear doors and repaired the bathroom floor.
“There are not enough words to describe how happy I am with the results. I know all of you had things to do with your own families and you still took time to help me,” Marlyss exclaimed.
A courageous mother, a courageous son
Mary Pearl Walls suffered with diabetes. Two weeks before her son was to leave for Iraq, she had to have her leg amputated. Her son was torn between his duties – taking care of his mother or taking care of his country. Mary Pearl encouraged her son to fulfill his military commitment. Little did either of them know that Project Homefront would take care of Mary Pearl and repair her home, allowing her to move about more freely and safely.
A team of about 60 volunteers from the Rebuilding Together affiliate of the Palm Beaches, the Junior League, and the local Home Depot descended upon Mary Pearl’s home clad in the Project Homefront T-Shirts and ready to go to work. Safety bars were installed in the shower, a new security lighting system was installed around the exterior of the house, grab bars were placed on the banisters – inside and outside, all new kitchen cabinets were provided, the living room was dry walled and painted, broken windows were replaced and the garage was refurbished into a den so that Mary Pearl could live comfortably all on the first floor of her home.
Mary Pearl was overjoyed by the dedication and service provided by this team of volunteers. Through clouded eyes, all she could say was, “God Bless.”
In the spirit of partnership
When Casey Seiver, a Home Depot associate in Columbus, Georgia learned his brother-in-law, U.S. Army Special Operations Ranger Nino Livaudais had been killed while on duty in Iraq, his thought turned to his sister, Jackie. Jackie, pregnant and with two small children, was facing life-altering decisions and he wanted to help. One way he could was through Project Homefront.
Casey and a team of Rebuilding Together volunteers and members of Nino’s Special Operations Division put a new roof on the back of Jackie’s house to keep it from flooding and replaced all of the rotted doors.
These are a few of the families that have been helped through Project Homefront. ASHI has a formal agreement with Rebuilding Together offering support of its many projects. Several chapters have made a Rebuilding project an annual event. The organization works in 930 cities and towns, and has rehabilitated 8,000 houses this year, prioritizing help to low-income, elderly, and disabled homeowners, as well as families with children. ASHI membership or chapters can volunteer by calling Rebuilding Together at 800-4-REHAB-9 or visiting www.rebuildingtogether.org.