SILER CITY — As the repairs piled up on his Siler City home, Robert Person did his best to keep pace with them.
But small jobs eventually turned into big ones, and the 69-year-old Army veteran had no choice but to realize his limitations. That turned out to be difficult for a young man coming from a family of 11 siblings. As such, he didn’t possess the greatest amount of patience upon beginning his military service.
“I learned a lot,” Person said of his service time. “We had to have patience, and I didn’t have none! When I got in there, I learned patience in there. That’s a good thing because my mama practically raised us by herself. There was 11 of us, and she practically raised us by herself.”
Through the Home Depot Foundation and Meals on Wheels America’s Helping Homebound Heroes Grant, Person and his wife were able to receive needed repairs. Volunteers from area Home Depot stores came out to assist with exterior work, while Rebuilding Together of the Triangle, a partner of the Chatham County Council on Aging, took on the interior projects with the bathroom and shower installation. He learned of the Helping Homebound Heroes program from his brother, who brought it to his attention while scouring the Internet.
This marks the third consecutive year the Council has secured grant funding towards the Helping Homebound Heroes project in Chatham County, aimed toward providing home repairs for veterans in need.
Serving from 1973-76, Person’s time in the Army took him to basic training at Fort Jackson (Columbia, S.C.), Oklahoma and overseas in Germany for a spell. An artillery specialist with his unit, Person returned to North Carolina to be stationed at Fort Bragg, where he was in the XVIII Airborne Corps.
While Person’s mobility is not severely hampered, there are physical limitations. He continues to work part-time as a truck driver, but a cracked bone in his back makes pain a constant companion. He’s also overcome a heart attack.
“I do a lot of stuff I don’t have any business doing,” Person said. “It’s interesting, just to be able to do it. My classmates for instance, there aren’t many of them left. Their health is bad, and I’m thankful that I’m able to get around and do things.”
However, the scope of work needed on his home was not one of them. Exposed siding left the home vulnerable to higher energy costs with air coming in, and the kitchen ceiling started to drop. Person’s wife, Jackie, needed a shower installed after problems with her feet made it hard to step over into a tub.
“The ceiling had started to drop over the stove right there,” Person said. “It sags, and it was getting pretty tough. I needed another bathroom, because (Person’s wife) isn’t going to be able to get in no tub. We needed that, because getting over that tub – the other night, she went up against the wall trying to step up there.”
Limited resources made the program a blessing for Person and his wife.
“I was glad to get this help,” Person said. “Financially, I ain’t got no money. Lumber is so high it’s pitiful now. It was just going to get worse, and I wasn’t able to afford to have it all fixed at one time.”
Person turns 70 in December and sees the Helping Homebound Heroes grant as not only an early birthday present but a pre-Christmas blessing.
“Right now, it’s leaving me stress free!” he said. “This is a load off my mind, and I had no idea it was going to get done. But they didn’t waste a lot of time getting to it, I tell you that.”