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Volunteers pitch in to fix disabled veteran’s home

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Foundation helps with major overhaul

By Chris Van Ormer

CITRUS SPRINGS — The house on West Eric Drive was bursting with firefighters Thursday, without a wisp of smoke in sight.

“What started out as a sand and paint ended up as a major overhaul,” said John Keith, past commander of the Beverly Hills Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10087.

At least a dozen firefighters and a dozen Home Depot associates had been updating and refreshing the Citrus Springs home of Tony Lemarquais, a 34-year-old disabled veteran who uses a wheelchair, during a three-day project that initially was a smaller request.

“John came into the store last November and wanted to know if we would be able to help out with about $150 so that Tony could get his bedroom carpet replaced,” said Julie Shutt, assistant manager at Crystal River Home Depot. “And I asked him how much time he had.”

Since the request had no time limit, Shutt said, “Let’s see if we can do a little better for you,” and applied for help through The Home Depot Foundation, Keith said the request was brought to him by a VFW post member, because he is the manager for such projects for veterans.

“I just did the paperwork,” Keith said. 

He gave high praise to Shutt and to Valerie Winslip, the foundation contact in Atlanta. 

Keith also spoke in awe of the volunteers.

“They painted the outside of this house in two hours,” he said.

Shutt said volunteers had a prep day last Sunday, when she and two “Team Depot” volunteers did the pressure washing of the exterior. 

“We pressure washed the driveway and the screen enclosure so that it would be ready to paint today,” Shutt said. “And with the Citrus County Fire Rescue volunteers, along with Home Depot associates, who are also volunteers, we’ve already painted the exterior. We’ve put in the retaining wall here so that when Tony comes out with his puppy, the chair doesn’t continue to go off the porch.”

Inside, the volunteers painted all of the walls and baseboards. Lemarquais’ bedroom walls were newly coated in a bright shade of beige, while the bedroom of his 3-and-a-half-year-old son, Joseph, was treated to a nice hue of blue for a boy.

All the flooring was removed during the prep day so the home could be finished Friday with new floor covering throughout.

The improvements will be a great help to the homeowner.

“Tony is 34 years old,” Shutt said. “He’s a disabled vet. His primary caretakers are his mother and Uncle Bob. They needed to get to a point where they could more easily maintain the home, which is why we’re here. We will get them to the point where they can maintain the house.”

Funding for the supplies came from the Home Depot Foundation. 

“We apply for grants and request dollars based on the amount of work that we need to do,” Shutt said. “And they graciously approved the grant here for us to be able to do this.”

Volunteers provide all the labor.

“We actually had 12 firemen from Citrus County Fire Rescue here with us today, along with Chief (Kenneth) Clamer, who is the battalion chief,” Shutt said. “We had 12 Home Depot volunteers. Tomorrow, we will have more Citrus County Fire Rescue volunteers as well as Home Depot associates from the Ocala store joining us to finish it up.”

Lemanquais was to get his house back on Friday.

“It will be completely done tomorrow,” Shutt said Thursday afternoon. “They’ll be ready to go. We’re going to put up a flagpole for them and a few finishing touches outside, and put in the new flooring.”

Shutt also thanked Larry Gamble, manager of Walmart in Inverness, for donating a futon and some linens to the family.

Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer can be reached at cvanormer@chronicleonline.com or 352-564-2916. 

FOUNDATION INFO

* www.homedepotfoundation.org; 866-593-7019; The Home Depot Foundation, 2455 Paces Ferry Road, C-17, Atlanta, GA 30339.