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Hetzel: Making a Difference
Home Depot helps Korean War vet. who helped World War II veteran
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(Left to right) Herbert Mercer, a Korean War veteran, Mary Ann Collins and her father James Fields, a World War II veteran. Mercer and Fields hold pictures of themselves from their younger days in uniform. - photo by Michelle Kim

A father, daughter and close friend walked into the Conyers’ Home Depot to look at windows to start on some renovations for their home. Little did the group know that what they would leave with would be more than some new windows. Gold lettering and military insignias on both of the  men’s ball caps caught the eye of store manager Ron Founds.  

“I couldn’t believe that there was a World War II veteran in my store. And, he was standing next to a Korean War Veteran.  Do you know how that rare that is?” Founds said.

The data is staggering. Recent figures from the Veterans’ Affairs Administration report that approximately 1,000 World War II Veterans die each day.  The average life expectancy for an American male is 75 years, while the youngest World War II veteran is more than 80 years old.  

Founds introduced himself and met 92-year-old James Fields, World War II veteran, U.S. Army; his daughter Mary Ann Collins and their close friend Herbert H. Mercer, Korean War veteran, U.S. Army.  As they walked toward the window department, Founds learned more.  

The threesome has known each other for more than 20 years. But about two years ago, Fields and Collins found themselves without a roof over their heads and nowhere to go. Mercer couldn't let that happen. He picked them up and they moved in 

Mercer is quite a handyman. He’s done most of the designing, remodeling and repair to the home. But, there’s so much to manage.  

“My furnace quit working.   The space heaters are helping, but I really need to take care of the windows,” Mercer said. 

Timing was perfect. This was the second annual Team Depot national campaign to help veterans. Run by Home Depot, this year’s focus was designed to help with weatherization, repairs and renovations. Founds and his assistant manager Chad Meetre, have been working since then to help the family.

“First, we had to apply for a grant. Part of the requirement involves working with a local nonprofit. That’s when Hands on Newton came in. They have been sending tons of volunteers out to the house,” Meetre said.

“A lot of our employees have also been doing a lot of the work. After they finish here, they head toward the house.   They have fallen in love with this family,” Meetre said.

Recently, a new furnace was installed in the home. Collins just shook her head. “I just don’t know what to say,” she said. “My dad feels cold so easily. I’ve been so worried.   We’re so grateful.” 

Volunteers quietly work on the windows. “There are people who have nothing,” Mercer said. “Home Depot is helping us. They are such caring people.”

When asked if the help will end soon, Collins said, “ I don’t think so. They keep coming back and helping.  College kids were here yesterday.” 

Fields smiles and said, “This is so wonderful. Everyone is so busy helping us.”

Buckets of donated exterior house paint arrive. They’ll have to wait until tomorrow.   It’s dark outside and the volunteers are putting their tools away for the night. The volunteers don’t say goodnight before first promising to return to complete what they started.