Community helps veteran with repair to home

OKEECHOBEE — An 85-year-old Korean War veteran in Riverbend Mobile Home & R.V. Park has found help from the community with repairs to his hurricane-damaged home.

Frank E. Sullivan, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran did not know who to turn to after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offered only $1,000 for repairs to his home, which needed a new roof, new floor and other repairs.

An article about the veteran appeared in the Nov. 12 edition of the Okeechobee News. It didn’t take long for local veterans to rally to his aid.

Bill Martin (left) canteen manager of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post 4423, stands with Korean war veteran Frank Sullivan (right). Mr. Martin saw Mr. Sullivan’s story of struggling with damages from Hurricane Irma in the Okeechobee News on Nov. 12 and decided to repair Mr. Sullivan’s roof and to help clear the mold growing inside his trailer. Photo by Richard Marion.

By Monday, Mr. Sullivan’s house was in the process of being repaired with help from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4423.

VFW canteen manager Bill Martin decided to take the lead on the task after reading the article on the condition of Mr. Sullivan’s home in Sunday’s Okeechobee News.

Mr. Martin took time off his own day job as a delivery driver for Detox of South Florida, Inc. in an effort to make the elderly veteran’s home livable again.

Bill Martin, canteen manager of the VFW post 4423, drills new aluminum sheets onto Frank Sullivan’s trailer on Nov. 14. Sullivan, a Korean war vet, had been plagued with constant leaks, water and mold in his house since Hurricane Irma. Photo by Richard Marion.

On Tuesday, Mr. Martin began the job of putting a new roof on the home. He plans to have it finished by Wednesday (today). He said the repair plan involves not only a new roof, but also a new bamboo hardwood floor and paneling in the kitchen and new carpet in the living room and hallway.

The volunteers will also address the problem of black mold in the home.

The carpet will be donated by Warren Martin, Bill’s brother, who will help with the labor.

“If a contractor were to low-ball estimate the cost to repair the home, it would be around $5,000 – $6,000. The roof repair alone will exceed the money from FEMA,” Mr. Martin said.

The VFW Post 4423 was able to assist Mr. Sullivan thanks to their relief fund and money raised through the VFW Buddy Poppy program.

The paper flowers known as “Buddy Poppies” were originally sold to provide relief for the people of post World War I France. Today the sales directly benefit thousands of disabled and down-on-their-luck American veterans. These funds are used exclusively to benefit veterans.

Mr. Martin said Home Depot donated $200 of materials for the roof repairs and also donated gloves for the work crew.

The VFW welcomes more help from the community for Mr. Sullivan and for other local veterans in need.

Bill Martin (left) takes an aluminum sheet from Red Combs (right) on Nov. 14. Photo by Richard Marion.

“Feel free to contact us at 863-763-0818,” Mr. Martin said.

Mr. Sullivan has lodging accommodations for the time the repairs will be underway.

After the article appeared in the newspaper, numerous calls from the community came to the Okeechobee News office, offering assistance for Mr. Sullivan, including one from County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, who arranged to have a tree removed by Waste Management, Inc. The tree, which fell during the storm, was responsible for much of the damage to the home.

Mr. Sullivan said that he will donate any money he receives from FEMA back to VFW Post 4423’s relief fund.

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