"I just think it’s wonderful there’s a program like this, that they care enough for the widows to come and help us out."
More than 40 teams of volunteers wrapped up their work this week on the annual September House of Heroes blitz across Columbus and Phenix City. That means 52 veterans and their spouses or widows rest easier today, said Janie Pearson, who heads the program on Fort Benning, because their homes are safer, sounder and more comfortable than they were last month,
Josephine Miles is one of them. The maintenance on her 40-year-old South Columbus home has gotten out of hand since Josephine lost her husband, Socrates, a Vietnam veteran, six years ago.
The outside of the house needed a new coat of paint, and inside, a leaky air conditioner had ruined the floor in the hallway. The kitchen cabinets were worn and unsightly, the countertop was damaged, and the places Miles couldn’t reach needed a good, thorough scrubbing.
A team of volunteers from the Fort Benning Sergeants Major Association converged on Miles’ house Saturday, and by 10 a.m., with the guts of the kitchen strewn across the front lawn and a trail of paint cans and tools from the street to the front porch, it was hard to believe the project would all come together by the end of the day. In a word, Miles said, it was “daunting.”
“But they did it, sure enough. They worked hard,” said Miles, whose only source of income is a small pension check she receives each month from the Army.
“I just think it’s wonderful there’s a program like this, that they care enough for the widows to come and help us out,” she said. “It’s a real blessing.”
Tuesday, as new carpet was being laid throughout most of the house, Miles figured she was pretty close to having “a place as good as new.”
That was good news to Sgt. Maj. Christopher McLean, who spearheaded the team of volunteers from the Sergeants Major Association.
“This was my first experience with the program, and I was a little bit nervous going in to it,” he said. “But I can tell you these volunteers stepped up and did an amazing job. We took on some (repairs) outside of the scope of what was expected of us, but that’s because their hearts were in the right place. They have a mission and a purpose — to help Soldiers and Families and to say thank you to people like Ms. Miles and her husband, who paved the way for us.”
That was pretty much what Wayne Anthony was thinking when he founded House of Heroes in 2000. The Columbus councilman started the nonprofit organization, which is funded mostly through donations, to honor aging or disabled military and public service veterans. Hundreds of veterans and widows of veterans have benefited from the work of volunteers, who clean, paint and repair — in some cases even construct wheelchair ramps or replace defective appliances.
Though teams work primarily during the month of September, House of Heroes accepts applications from prospective honorees throughout the year.
For more information, go to www.houseofheroes.org or call 706-545-5607 or 706-569-7011.