Veteran’s Home Repaired by Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity
Twelve years ago, retired Korean War veteran Francis “Frank” Perry left his Woodbridge home with his belongings and his cat, Tabatha, and relocated to a quiet Toms River senior community. “When I first bought my house, it
was a horrible shade of forest green,” Frank shared. “I had to paint two coats just to cover it up.” Frank knew he had work cut out for him and accepted the challenge. “I fixed it up little by little, but I did it all myself. It was a handyman’s dream.” He even went on to construct a backyard shed which he calls his, “work of art.”
As time passed, Frank’s health declined, leaving him unable to maintain and fix-up his home, something he loved doing very much. Arthritis and macular degeneration left him with severe joint pain and poor vision. “I was recently informed that I need both knees replaced to alleviate the pain,” he said. “I often worry I will trip and fall on my uneven floors.” With no living relatives, Frank found himself alone. Luckily, a caring neighbor stepped in.
Gerald Williams, a neighbor of Frank’s, found out about Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity’s home repair program, which helps low-income homeowners reclaim their homes with pride and dignity. Gerald reached out to Habitat in hopes of assisting Frank with health and safety modifications for his home. “As Habitat affiliates move from simply building homes to transforming communities, we need everyone to ‘build louder,’” shared Northern Ocean Habitat Executive Director Suzan Fichtner. “This challenges each and every one of us to advocate for our neighbors in need like Gerry who recognized that we could be a solution to Frank’s housing needs.”
Local students, retirees and fellow veterans came together to create a safer living environment for Frank. “While I was talking to Frank out back, I learned how proud he was of his house and how much labor he put into it to make it his own,” shared Kyle Pett, 19 of Toms River. “Through his stories about his service in the Korean War, his job working the morning hours in New York and New Jersey, and the do-it-yourself craftsmanship of his home, I could tell Frank was a hard-working, all-around awesome guy.”
Although Frank was fortunate enough to receive a motor scooter from the Veteran’s Association, his home was non ADA compliant, making it difficult for him to get around. Grab bars were installed throughout the house and doorways were widened to accommodate his motor scooter. The kitchen and dining room floors were then evened out, enabling him to move through his home with less concern over tripping and falling. A raised toilet and vanity were installed, allowing for easier bathroom use, and the back door window pane, which was broken during an attempted robbery, was replaced. Hazardous, crumbling front and back porch steps were demolished and replaced with new wooden decks and railings, and an automatic garage door was installed. Now, Frank can easily get in and out of his home and enjoy his yard which he takes great pride in. “It felt great knowing that my volunteering was working towards making his life better. He deserves it,” said volunteer, Kyle Pett.
“I’m very fortunate that I have good neighbors that are very, very helpful,” shared Frank.
Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity began its own initiative, Padlocks for Patriots, which raises funds for veterans like Frank. When you donate $20 to the Padlocks for Patriots fund, you will receive a lock to inscribe with a name or other sentiment honoring a veteran. Locks are then attached and displayed proudly on the American Flag fence, donated by Carl’s Fencing of Toms River. These locks do not have keys, thereby creating a lasting remembrance of someone special. All funds raised through this program are used for repairs on local veteran’s homes. To date, Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity has completed over 15 veteran home repair and renovation projects and was the recipient of the Repair Corps grant for military veterans through Habitat for Humanity International and the Home Depot Foundation.
About Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity
Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit housing ministry that brings people together to build homes, communities and hope in northern Ocean County. To date, the Northern Ocean County affiliate has completed 16 new homes, 60 Hurricane Sandy critical home repairs and over 120 home repairs through its ‘A Brush with Kindness’ program. For more information and to find out how to get involved, ‘like’ Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity on Facebook, visit Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity at nohfh.com or call 732-228-7962.