When the daughter of a 94-year-old World War II veteran called the Cumberland County Veterans Service Office asking for help, she had no clue that it would turn into a community-wide initiative to repair her father’s home.
The veteran was living in a deteriorating trailer in Fayetteville, NC. His daughter knew his home needed to be renovated soon or he could harm himself.
The trailer’s bathroom had a rotten and dilapidated floor, with wires sticking out of the walls and rusty appliances. The toilet and shower were faulty.
The Veterans Service Office immediately contacted Reka Reyna, Outreach Coordinator at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Cape Fear Valley. The Cohen Clinic works closely with many local nonprofits, so Reyna knew she would be able to find assistance. She quickly emailed a few community partners in Fayetteville, and within hours a team had been established to rehabilitate the veteran’s trailer.
Army veteran Rick Murillo took the lead on the project. Chris McHargue, active duty soldier and ambassador of the nonprofit 22 Until None, came alongside to help with construction.
Together, the two men were able to garner enough community support to give the veteran a completely brand-new bathroom and more. “We reached out initially through Facebook and got a lot of volunteers to come and do work. The total cost of the build was $2600. Within four days through the community we reached $2300 in donations. And then we had between four and six people out here every day working,” said McHargue.
The veteran’s story was so touching, many members of the community donated their personal time and resources. An employee for Blanton’s Plumbing bought all of the equipment needed and installed all of the plumbing in the bathroom for free. Many of the men working on this project were active duty soldiers, who took leave just to complete the important ‘mission’.
Local businesses also contributed greatly. Hendrick’s Jeep donated all of the new tiles, Adamo donated a toilet, and local restaurants such as Carolina Ale House and Jersey Mike’s supplied food for the volunteers to eat.
Lowe’s Hardware originally donated $850 worth of bathroom and safety supplies. After meeting with McHargue they decided they wanted to do more. By the end of the project they had given $1160 in total.
The veteran wasn’t allowed to see the bathroom while it was being completed. McHargue blocked the doorway with a washing machine so the bathroom could be unveiled when the project was completely finished. “He would send his daughter in to the bathroom every day while we were working on it, and ask ‘How’s it looking?’ He was so excited,” said McHargue.
Because of the community effort, the bathroom took five days to completely refurbish. Volunteers gutted and replaced the floor, laid new tile and installed brand new plumbing and safety features. McHargue made sure to widen the bathroom door so the veteran’s scooter could fit through. Lastly, volunteers built and placed new stairs leading to the front door.
When the project was finished, the bathroom was officially unveiled, and the veteran was stunned. “He was so happy, and so thankful. He had tears in his eyes,” McHargue said.
“Fayetteville, with Fort Bragg being here, is a huge military and active duty community, and it’s very patriotic. So, when they found out that there was a 94-year-old World War II veteran here who just needed a place to use the restroom and shower, a lot of people stepped up and I’d like to thank them for that,” McHargue continued.
A thank you banquet for the veteran and all volunteers that helped with this project was held on March 30 at the VFW.
By Rachel Picard
Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Cape Fear Valley