KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — On Veterans Day weekend, some of those in West Michigan who served but struggle to keep up or repair their homes are getting the help they need.
Michelle Harvell served eight years in the Army Reserve as a combat medic and a warehouse specialist. Although she was honorably discharged, she continued to serve — especially her family.
“My husband’s mom had cancer, and we weren’t sure how it was going to go,” she said. “So we moved up here (to Kalamazoo) to help his dad. She’s fine now.”
However, that was not the case for their home after moving in two years ago and her husband dealing with a series of strokes.
“Everything started breaking down: The furnace went out, the AC went out, dishwasher went out, my dryer stopped,” Harvell explained. “So, it’s like I kind of felt defeated.”
Facing years of repair work, it got to the point where they had to make some tough choices.
“I was deciding whether to pay the electric bill or mortgage at the time,” Harvell said. “I know a lot of people are having a hard time, but … yeah, it was a struggle.”
Even Michelle’s daughter, Kaleah Reese, got a job as soon as she possibly could.
“Even though she has to do all of this, she’s still really strong about it and she’s really supportive, so I wanted to be able to take a weight off of her back,” Reese said.
So did at least 30 Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity volunteers, who are repairing and renovating her home as part of the “Pitch In for Veterans” initiative.
New flooring, cabinetry, electrical, plumbing, appliances and landscaping are being installed with help from the Home Depot Foundation.
“Veterans in general, they’ve given all they can to our country and to us for our freedom,” said Erika Loichinger, who manages the Home Depot in Portage. “We all don’t sign up for that. This is our way that we can give back to them for what they’ve done for us.”
For an emotional Harvell, she’s already giving gratitude in return.
“I’m so happy for it, but man. I’m just so thankful and grateful for it,” she cried. “I really am.”
When asked what she will do next once she doesn’t have to worry about the repairs, Harvell laughed and answered, “Learn how to DIY.”