Rebuilding Together Acadiana volunteers decided to say “thank you for your service” with their hands instead of their voices on Saturday, making much needed repairs to the home of a veteran’s widow in Broussard.

Jean Nell Wilson stood on her new front porch as workers buzzed around her, coming in and out of the home with supplies, bottles of water and tools. About a dozen volunteers worked from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to spruce up her home and make it safer for the 75-year-old.

The repairs were funded by a grant from Sears’ Heroes at Home program, which partners with Rebuild Together units to serve veterans and veteran’s families around the country. The grant was about $20,000, Rebuilding Together Acadiana program coordinator Tamara Chance said, and helped finance the repairs at Wilson’s home and work at the home of two veterans in north Lafayette.

Wilson’s husband, Purvis Paul Wilson, was a Korean War Army veteran who died in 1969 while the couple was living in San Antonio. She moved to Broussard soon after and has lived in the same home on Saint Deporres Street since.

“I know he’s smiling up there. He’s gone but he’s still helping,” she said.

Wilson said the home holds years of memories and everywhere she looks she’s reminded of her parents and friends who have passed. In her old age, she said she wouldn’t be able to fix the home up the way Rebuilding Together made possible.

“Words can’t even explain. It makes me feel good everywhere,” she said of their assistance.

Chance said Wilson didn’t request much in her application. She had a list of small repairs, but when inspectors came to assess the home, they determined more work was needed.

Volunteers replaced flooring inside the home, removed rotting wood and aged siding on the outside of the home and wired a new ceiling fan in the living room, among other tasks during their workday on Saturday. They had already repaired the roof and erected a new front porch to ensure a safe and secure entrance to the home.

It’s important that community members in need are able to live with dignity, Chance said.

“You’re giving people who are elderly the opportunity to stay in their home for longer and age in place,” she said. “It helps them to not feel like they’ve been forgotten.”

Rebuilding Together Acadiana receives about 300 applications and helps repair about 60 homes annually for elderly, disabled and low to moderate income residents in Acadiana, Iberia, Lafayette and Vermilion parishes. The organization operates as a subset of Catholic Charities of Acadiana. 

“We do what we can,” Chance said.

Brian Begnaud and Spencer Gentry spent the morning checking the home’s exterior for weak spots, cutting wood for additional interior supports and replacing siding and tar paper. The two men said their homes were flooded in 2016 and volunteers poured love and work into their homes.

They said they know what it’s like to receive help and wanted to pay it forward.

“It’s about helping out neighbors and doing my Christian duty,” Begnaud said.

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