JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With nearly 58,000 veterans living on the streets in 2013, local centers like Five Star Veterans are crucial to getting them back on their feet.
The organization is getting a much-needed makeover Wednesday.
"We focus primarily on post-9/11 veterans that are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, and with the reduction of the armed forces those numbers are increasing on a daily basis," said Five Star Veterans CEO Col. Len Loving.
Francis and the Five Star Veterans Center hope to help reduce the number of 9/11 veterans living on the street. They help men and women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury by giving them a safe place to stay and three meals a day. But keeping this Veterans Center is open and they sometimes struggle.
"Because of the funding issue and what you see in terms of renovations once we complete them, I can probably put 40-42 residents in here, but because of funding, I have to keep that number down to around 22 or 25," said Francis.
Those renovations will be done Wednesday by Home Depot. A whole wing of Veteran rooms will be updated inside and the outside is getting a makeover too, with private fences, gazebos and even a military memorial wall.
The more than 250 volunteers are all Home Depot employees and the Team Depot captain said this is so rewarding for their company.
"Some of the core values at Home Depot is giving back and doing the right thing, and the veterans gave up so much to serve our country and the least we can do for them is create an environment of relaxation give them a nice place to call home," said Team Depot Captain Helena Mitrovich.
Home Depot is also donating wheelbarrows, shovels, even a riding mower to make the upkeep easier.
Veteran Jimmy Heeter served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and has lived at Five Star Veterans since December. He said the work of the volunteers is changing the lives of veterans.
"Home Depot is doing awesome things," Heeter said. "They've been here a couple months and have already renovated one wing. This is the second wing they're renovating, and it's awesome they're fixing the place up. I mean it's great people, great leadership, and it's really going to help a lot of veterans."
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