Veterans Build in Clarkston

Carol Hill lives in a sky-blue bungalow in one of Clarkston’s central neighborhoods, just a few steps away from the Clarkston Community Center. She has lived in the same home since 1976.

Her late husband, Joe, was a veteran of the U.S. Army and the DeKalb County Police. So when Officer Nathaniel Lucas came by to follow up on a report she made of things being stolen, they became friends.

“She told me about her husband, who was a retired DeKalb police officer who passed away a few years ago,” Lucas said. “And with that being in common, with her husband being in law enforcement and me being in law enforcement, I guess there was a bond there.”

Lucas noticed that Hill, who is 70, was having trouble getting around in the yard. When he came back to get additional information about the robbery, he saw a plastic bag catching leaks from her porch overhang.

“Our code enforcement officer stopped by, talking about Habitat for Humanity coming by and asking if I knew anyone in the city that needed any help with their house getting fixed up,” Lucas said. “He mentioned they were helping veterans. A lot of people’s sense of veteran–they mean military, but it can also mean police.”

Lucas dropped off an application for Habitat for Humanity with Hill, who filled it out and was accepted to have her home worked on.

Habitat for Humanity is best known for helping to build houses that get homeless families a place of their own. Representatives speak of the donations as a hand up, not a hand out, as families usually put in time working on their own homes that they will go on to own.

Bob Boyd is the executive director of Habitat for Humanity – Dekalb, which has been serving the community for 26 years. He said their organization recently launched an initiative to serve veterans and veterans’ families in the community. Habitat for Humanity connected with veterans groups around the county and found two homes that needed repair: Hill’s and other Clarkston residents Ralph and Patricia Gibson.

“Like our other programs, this is not a handout,” he said. “Veterans have a heart to serve, that’s why they served our nation. We want to assist them but also help us with the work around their house if they are not able to do so.

A few years ago, Hill broke both of her hips, lying unconscious in her home for days until a neighbor discovered her. She walks with a walker and her daughter lives miles away and isn’t always able to help.

In 2011 Hill hired a general contractor to fix things she was unable to do, such as the porch overhang and painting some rooms in her home. Instead of fixing the house, the contractor just made it more unsafe.

“He took every dime I had, just about,” Hill said. “We tried to locate him, but he took everything.”

On the porch, the overhang was completed with just plywood boards and a swipe of ceiling paint. The interior was painted orange by a different contractor, who demanded $400. Hill also said the contractor insisted she pay for supplies.

“They did so much, and then they walked out and here I am,” Hill said. “That was about three years ago, and I haven’t had the energy or the strength to fix it myself.”

On Sept. 11, starting at 9 a.m. with breakfast and working until about 4 p.m., a crew of volunteers replaced a rotting back porch, tore down an unsafe sunroom and trimmed trees.

More crews will be back in the following weeks to fix the overhang, the botched sunroom and paint the interior.

“These folks are a Godsend,” Hill said. “I cried and cried and cried when they called. I have never really had anything this good happen to me.”

By Lauren Ramsdell on September 23, 2014 in DeKalb News

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