PRC in Action: The Honor of Serving a Veteran

Ernest Watson, 83 years old, has lived in his historic home in the Bywater neighborhood since 1984.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Mr. Watson didn’t leave the city until he joined the Army in 1953. He served for 20 years, including in the Korean War, following a long line of veteran family members.

The Honor of Serving a VeteranA few years ago, a fire broke out in his home after a light bulb overheated. Firefighters had to run the fire hose through the gable window, and most of the home was damaged. Mr. Ernest was able to repair his home to move back in, but many needed repairs could not be completed, or were done incorrectly by a contractor. With the aggressive revitalization of the Bywater neighborhood, Mr. Watson has been concerned that if repairs are not completed, he may be pushed out of the house he has called home for over 30 years.

While the exterior was repaired recently after the fire, improper installation of new gutters deteriorated the home with water rot within a few years. Water had been running behind the gutters, leading to the rotting of the shutters, window trim and siding. A lack of safe entrances and exits made daily errands difficult for Mr. Watson.

Inside, a bathroom with unfinished walls and exposed plumbing is a breeding ground for mold, leading to further deterioration of the home.

With the support of The Home Depot Foundation and Team Depot, the company’s associate-led volunteer force, Rebuilding Together New Orleans was able to take on repairing Mr. Watson’s home.

This project marks the 75th veteran homeowner who has been served since 2008 with critical home repairs. Team Depot matches their generous financial and in-kind donations with hundreds of volunteer hours serving veteran homeowners. In late July, as the heat index climbed to 110 degrees, approximately 40 store associates joined Rebuilding Together New Orleans to start the exterior repairs.

“I am amazed by the dedication Team Depot showed through their work,” said Rebuilding Together New Orleans Interim Director Catherine Crowell. “Summer is usually a slow time for volunteer recruitment but we had multiple stores from as far as LaPlace, La. come out after they heard Mr. Watson’s story.”

“I am very grateful that Rebuilding Together New Orleans picked my house,” Mr. Watson said. “I used to do all the home maintenance myself but have been unable to keep up after the fire.”

As a program of the Preservation Resource Center, Rebuilding Together New Orleans preserves the neighborhoods of New Orleans by assisting longtime homeowners that have contributed to their neighborhoods for decades and now need a helping hand. In addition to the exterior revitalization, the cultural heritage of the neighborhood is kept intact through home repair.