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Volunteer handymen help out Mechanicsville veteran

Posted on Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 10:22 am

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U.S. Army veteran Steve Guillford and his wife Karen recently spent the day watching an army of volunteers completely uproot and renovate their backyard, garage and house in Mechanicsville.

Mechanicsville veteran Steve Guillford and wife, Karen, during a volunteer build day at their home.

Approximately 20 Home Depot associates volunteered their time and home-building skills May 9 to make major repairs to the Guillfords’ home, which included building a new ramp, constructing a new shed, and adding a stone garden path.

The extent of the renovations were a pleasant surprise to Steve Guillford, who was particularly impressed with the shed that was being built right before his eyes.

“We didn’t realize how much of a surprise it was going to be,” he said. “They made it sound like there was just going to be a little shed. That’s much more of a shed than I expected!”

Referring to the renovations that had been happening all day, Karen Guillford commented, “This has been extremely helpful in getting us more organized and cleaning our yard up, so we can get around a little bit better.”

“They are doing a wonderful job,” Steve added.

The renovation of the Guillfords’ home was one of many service projects occurring nationwide under the Home Depot’s “Spring into Service” campaign, a seven-week effort dedicated to providing safe housing for veterans. Under the program, hundreds of veterans’ homes and living spaces are getting renovated across the nation.

Steve served in the Army as a tank crewman for eight years. He suffered a stroke related to his service in the Army, which affects his mobility. Karen now serves as Steve’s care-taker.

Despite the hardships that they have experienced, the Guillfords have remained resolved and determined to live their lives to the fullest.

“We’re partners; we hang in there. And we don’t give up,” Karen said.

Home Depot volunteers pave a stone path and construct raised garden beds for the Guillfords.

With Steve’s difficulty with mobility, the Guillfords wanted a safe and easily accessible environment for him to spend time outside. They decided to go to their local Home Depot for help.

Last fall, Steve visited the Ashland location to ask about the supplies he would need to make repairs to his home. That was when he met associate Dan Schneider.

While the two talked about the repairs the Guillfords would need to make on their home, Steve mentioned that he could not afford the cost of the projects. Knowing about Home Depot’s Spring into Service program, Schneider reassured Steve that Home Depot takes care of veterans.

Schneider enlisted the help of fellow associate Glen Goodman and began preparing an application for grant money from the Home Depot Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the living spaces of U.S. veterans.

From there, they talked with the Ashland store manager, Jessica Toney, who immediately approved the project. The Ashland volunteer team then applied for and received $8,000 from the Home Depot Foundation for the project.

“We’re doing this [project] because we care,” Toney said. “Home Depot gives back,  and that’s one thing that we love so much about the company. It inspires the associates to give back.”

“We’re getting empowered,” Schneider explained. “We are empowered to do [little things] for the customer.”

With the grant money, the Home Depot team was able to include more projects on their “to-do” list than originally planned. In addition to the major renovations that the team had informed the Guillfords they were going to do, the Home Depot team included a number of “little things” to surprise the Guillfords.

Karen cried out with surprise and joy as she was greeted in her driveway by one of these surprises: A truck bed full of arranged plants and flowers for their backyard. The arranged plants had been donated by Bell Nursery, a live-goods buyer exclusive to Home Depot.

“It seems like every time I turn around, there’s more stuff showing up!” Karen said, gesturing to a colorful new set of cushions and a functional new lawn umbrella that the family had just received that day.

Most importantly, the renovation to the backyard will allow Steve to move around more easily outside. With the repairs being done to the backyard, he explained, “I get to come outside more and eat outside and get more sunlight.”

Looking around at the transformation she was seeing happen right before her eyes, Karen commented that the renovations were a great first step in helping make their lives easier.

“I’m kind of just watching it unfold, and we can figure out what else we’re going to need. But that’s a nice start,” she said.