Community helps rebuild veteran’s home



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MUNCIE, Ind. — Seventy-seven-year-old Vietnam combat veteran John Holaday had been living in his Muncie home without power, water or sewage for more than a year. With his home in severe disrepair, the Health Department would soon issue a condemnation, and Holaday would be homeless.

Earlier, Holaday had saved up all of his money for repairs, but was scammed by the contractor he hired. A client of the Delaware County Veterans Affairs Office for five years, Holaday eventually turned to the office for help.

“Over the time, we just didn’t realize what was going on and how much help he needed,” said Nate Jones, the Delaware County Veterans Service officer. “John is so strong-willed of a person, that he didn’t want help. He was trying to do this on his own.”

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Delaware County Veterans Affairs worked with volunteers to rebuild the home of John Holaday, a Vietnam veteran, Thursday afternoon.  (Photo: Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press)

But when Jones and his team were able to see the house, that’s when everything changed. There were no toilets, sinks or water. There was plywood sheeting on the floor, holding Holaday’s bed. Another room had his clothes hanging from studs, Jones said.

To help Holaday, the local Veteran’s Affairs Office would take on its biggest project to date, demolishing the home and rebuilding it from the ground up.


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Typically, the office helps veterans fill out paperwork, get wheelchairs or build ramps. Sometimes, it will even assist in paying utility bills. When Jones started this project, some told him it was too extreme.

“I tell them, ‘You know what, it was awfully extreme for him to go overseas and be willing to give his life for this country too,'” Jones said. “I know what that’s like as a combat vet. I’m going to repay the favor to him and make sure he gets what he needs.”

The project started at the beginning of October, and within the first week, the office had raised $37,000, plus more than $10,000 worth of donated materials from an anonymous nonprofit.

Jones said it has truly been a community effort to rebuild Holaday’s home, from donations on GoFundMe to those building the foundation.

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Delaware County Veterans Affairs worked with volunteers to rebuild the home of John Holaday, a Vietnam veteran, Thursday afternoon.  (Photo: Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press)

Locally owned C&C Construction is helping the group manage the project, with students from the Muncie Area Career Center performing various duties, including framing and drywall. Muncie Masonry and Concrete has donated its services to help repair the foundation. Nine Line from Fort Wayne has worked on heating and air conditioning. More businesses will be added to the list as electricity and plumbing are finalized.

One of the main reasons the project has taken off was a $30,000 donation from Providing Hope VA, a Virginia-based nonprofit that works to help less fortunate veterans.

Outside of businesses and organizations, tnumerous people from all over the country have sent in checks or donated to the project’s GoFundMe page.

“I want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart,” Holaday said to those helping. “I never thought I’d see a miracle, but it’s a miracle in my life time. Thank you all very much and I appreciate everything you all do.”

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Delaware County Veterans Affairs worked with volunteers to rebuild the home of John Holaday, a Vietnam veteran, Thursday afternoon.  (Photo: Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press)

The journey has been an emotional one for Holaday, and it’s hard for him not to cry when talking about it. He’s even reunited with long-lost family members during the process.

On Thursday afternoon, Holaday was on site, speaking to students from the Muncie Area Career Center before they got to work.

Jeremy Penrod, a construction technology teacher with Muncie Community Schools who is leading the project, said the program typically gets a grant from the city to build a home every year. With COVID-19, that was put on hold, and students were mostly focusing on in-shop work.

Penrod has known Jones for years, and when he heard about the project on social media, he asked how he could help.

“It’s been a blessing for us, and for these kids to be able to be a part of something like this and give back to the community the way they are; it’s a really awesome opportunity for them,” Penrod said. “We’re looking forward to getting John home.”

Jace Phillips, a 16-year-old student at Yorktown High School, was at the building site on Thursday, helping install the frame of the house.

“It’s always nice to give back to the community, especially a veteran who served the country and was living in such a poor home,” Phillips said. “It would be nice just to help him and give him a place to sleep.”

At this point, Jones said the team is on schedule and hopes to have the home finished by December.

Without the support of the community, Mayor Dan Ridenour’s office and the Delaware County commissioners, Jones said this wouldn’t have been possible.

“We literally have brought all walks of life together, from all different areas, to accomplish one goal. That’s kind of the military way,” Jones said. “We all come together to complete a task. That’s what we’re taught overseas and taught here in the U.S. to be that way.”

In the future, Jones sees this as a way to help all homeless veterans in Delaware County, which is about 25 individuals. If the office were able to do this three times a year, for the next 5-10 years, that would get the current homeless veteran population in Muncie housed.

He suggested taking several of the blighted properties in the city and transforming them for veterans, getting resources from organizations like Providing Hope VA or the Veterans Affairs..

“I’ll stay to the end of time making sure this happens. Just to make sure people (are) warm, have water, that’s what I’m about,” Jones said. “I know what it’s like to live in weather and on the ground for a year.”

To help contribute or volunteer, contact the Delaware County Veteran’s Affairs Office, 765-747-7810 and ask for Brian Wilson or Devin Hamilton.

Charlotte Stefanski is a reporter at The Star Press. Contact her at 765-283-5543, [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @CharStefanski

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