Chandler Vets Get A ‘Thank You For Your Service’ - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Vets Get A ‘Thank You For Your Service’

October 8th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Vets Get A ‘Thank You For Your Service’

By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

The Chandler home of two U.S. Army veterans was a flurry of activity last month as workers rolled paint brushes over walls, installed new fencing, built a patio and got their hands dirty with lots of other work on a hot weekday morning.

Watching over all the action, homeowners Dwight and Mary Blanchard smiled and seemed overwhelmed by the gesture.

“It’s just been an incredible few weeks here,” Mary Blanchard said. “It’s like, how do we deserve all this?”

The major renovations to the inside and outside of the Blanchards’ home came courtesy of the Home Depot Foundation and HandsOn Greater Phoenix.

The Home Depot’s associate-headed volunteer group, Team Depot, sent 20 members to the Blanchards’ home for preparation work, followed a week later by 116 workers who created a magical transformation for the Blanchards.

“At first, honestly I didn’t believe it,” Mary said. “I told everybody. I started crying.”

Valley nonprofit HandsOn Greater Phoenix teamed up with Home Depot around project management and provided tools while a Home Depot Foundation grant paid for paint, rocks, plants, flooring, fencing and other supplies.

The work was a way to thank the two U.S. Army veterans. Dwight served 37 years, while Mary put in 10.

The hardworking couple, who both work full-time in civilian jobs now, have faced multiple issues at the house they have lived in for about six years, including a termite-infested fence that was falling apart and paint peeling off the exterior.

The Blanchards previously had to use their own money to replace a leaky roof and buy a new air-conditioning unit. Despite their best efforts, Dwight, 61, and Mary, 57, didn’t have the resources to fix pressing problems at their house on West Sundance Way.

The City of Chandler contacted HandsOn Greater Phoenix about assisting the Blanchards with possible improvements. The Home Depot Foundation, Home Depot and HandsOn Greater Phoenix wanted to say “thank you” to the couple for their extensive service to the country.

Dwight, who retired as a master sergeant after being stationed in Alabama, Texas, New Jersey and Korea, said what prompted the project was when he and Mary contacted the City of Chandler about a fence at their home.

“I knew the fence needed replaced,” he said. “It’s just old and full of termites. We could patch it.”

Mary said it was “out of our price range” to fix it and make other repairs in the near future in order to follow city housing ordinances.

“We have medical bills and school loans,” to pay off, she said. “I have a bad shoulder. A lot of the stuff was overwhelming.”

The project is one of many such volunteer efforts that the Home Depot Foundation helps underwrite around the country to enhance the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families. The home transformations were done as part of Home Depot’s eighth annual Celebration of Service campaign.

The Home Depot Foundation since 2011 has renovated more than 40,000 homes and other buildings for veterans around the country. Helping veterans is a personal cause for The Home Depot because over 35,000 of the company’s associates have served in the military.

The volunteers painted the inside and outside of the Blanchard’s’ house, put in new ceiling fans and installed new appliances, put stucco on an outside wall, erected new fences, made weatherization enhancements, built new sheds and beautified the front yard by planting cacti and other plants.

Clay Brown, district manager for The Home Depot for the East Valley, said many suppliers helped with the project, including ones who donated paint and concrete.

“They can sit back here and enjoy it,” Brown said of the patio being built in the Blanchards’ back yard.

He added the renovations will “make life easier, more enjoyable” for the couple.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Brown said. “It’s a great feeling of pride.”

Kyle Cazeaux, a finance partner for the region for The Home Depot’s corporate office out of Atlanta, enjoyed the work at the Blanchards’ home.

“I just like helping veterans,” Cazeaux said. “You see what it means to the people. One of the values for our company is giving back.”

He said he is “not the most handy person,” but he could move rocks and dig up dirt.

Ryan Braddy, foundation field manager for the Western division of the Home Depot Foundation, said the nonprofit organization’s “primary mission is to end veteran homelessness.” The foundation since 2011 had invested a quarter of a billion dollars in veteran-related causes.

“It’s a great feeling being able to give back to veterans that have given so much to us,” Braddy said.

He said HandsOn Greater Phoenix has been “a huge partner for us” and HandsOn Greater Phoenix’s CEO Rhonda Oliver has “been tremendous.”

Oliver said HandsOn Greater Phoenix’s mission is to “put volunteers to work where they are needed most.”

“It’s a great way to kick off the Celebration of Service,” Oliver said. “We’re always looking for veterans and homeowners who have some needs. It’s (veterans) a demographic that doesn’t usually ask for help.”

She described Dwight and Mary as “very humble.”

Dwight worked mostly in radio communications in the Army while Mary worked as a photographer in the Army. Now Dwight works at Durham Communications in commercial radio and systems integration while Mary works as a reading interventionist at Pomeroy Elementary School in the Chandler school district.

The couple has two adult children together and Mary has two adult children of her own. The Blanchards also have five grandchildren.

“They’re going to be so excited when they come over,” Mary said of their grandchildren. “There’s a lot of emotions. My number one really is that I’m honored, grateful. I’m just so excited that our home can be pretty.”