Home Depot volunteers assist Hillsboro veteran

Out of work for about 10 months and without the financial resources to adequately maintain his home, U.S. Air Force veteran Chuck Reynolds and his wife, Stephanie, found help in an unexpected place.

Jay Mello, manager of the Home Depot store on Tualatin Valley Highway in Hillsboro, took a personal interest when he found out there was a veteran in the community who could use a helping hand. So last Thursday at 7 a.m., more than 50 volunteers from Home Depot stores around the metro area turned out at the Reynolds’ house on Northeast 18th Avenue in Hillsboro and worked through until about 4 p.m. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - On Oct. 17, volunteers enjoy the sun as they tackle the Reynolds backyard, placing fresh sod and smoothing out the terrain at the Reynolds home on Northeast 18th Avenue.

Volunteers put insulation into the walls and attic of the Reynolds’ home, repainted the entire exterior of his two-story house and landscaped it front and back, including putting in an entire new backyard of fresh sod.

“The crew, the amount of work, it’s beyond belief,” Reynolds commented as he watched the volunteers bustling about his yard.

“It’s fantastic; I’m overwhelmed at how much work they’ve done and how many people came out,” Stephanie added. “Our house hasn’t been painted in 25 years. We’re very grateful.”

Having the house insulated made a particularly positive impression on the HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Chuck Reynolds and his wife Stephanie enjoy their new backyard with their dog, Buddy, while volunteers work behind them.

“The insulation is huge for us,” said Reynolds. “Our bills won’t be $300 a month in the winter and it’ll be cooler in the summer.”

“It’s hard to believe this house was built in 1967 and never had insulation,” added Stephanie. “I was ecstatic our heating bill is not going to be so high.”

Mello said it was an honor to help a veteran.

“The neat thing about these projects is, I get home at the end of the day and I’m tired and sore and have dirty fingernails and paint in my hair, but you feel real good about what you’ve done,” Mello said.

Fred Wacker, director and CEO of the Home Depot Foundation, explained that the Atlanta-based foundation is in the middle of a five-year, $80 million campaign to help veterans around the nation.

“We provide grant dollars to purchase materials to make sure every veteran has a safe and decent place to call home. It’s a celebration of their service,” Wacker said. “The challenges our veterans are facing are tremendous, and we have over 500 projects nationwide.”

Reynolds, 57, said he didn’t serve in Vietnam, but is classified as a Vietnam-era veteran.

“I was not in Vietnam,” Reynolds said. “I joined in 1974, and was stationed in Korea. When I was there the (North Korean) president was threatening to celebrate in Seoul the next year. I thought we were going to war. It was scary.”

He served in a military police detachment in the Air Force from 1974-1978, and was stationed in Korea for most of that time.

After his service in the Air Force, Reynolds came home and put his experience to work.

“I had a 30-year career in security,” he said.

But with the economic downturn, Reynolds has found himself out of work in recent months. To make productive use of his extra time, he has been attending classes at Portland Community College, studying to be an alcohol and drug counselor.

“I want to serve in a capacity to help people,” Reynolds said. “These guys are here doing this for me, and I want to give back as well. I have a heart for veterans, being one myself. There are a lot of guys coming back with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and with suicidal tendencies, and I want to give back to people in need.”

According to Wacker, the Reynolds’ family was chosen after his wife came into the Home Depot on TV Highway several months ago.

“She came in to get some things for their home, and one of our sales associates started a conversation with her and found out her husband was a veteran,” said Wacker. “He asked if they would be interested in having some Home Depot employees come out and see their home to identify what could be done to improve it, and that started it.”

Wacker said the Reynolds house was the first project the Home Depot Foundation has taken on in Hillsboro.

The efforts of the volunteers caught the attention of state Sen. Bruce Starr, who lives in Hillsboro.

“I believe it is great when large American corporations with operations in our communities identify needs of veterans and rally to solve those needs,” said Starr. “Home Depot did that, and a veteran and Hillsboro family will have a warmer winter because of it. Kudos to Home Depot for giving back.”

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