Jayson Stewart and his wife, Janelle, long pictured themselves involved with an “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”-type home renovation.
Only they thought they’d be on the giving end — not the receiving.
“We always thought we’d be volunteering our time to help people out,” said Jayson, an Army corporal who medically retired last week. “We never pictured ourselves on the other end.”
But they were Sept. 19, when 32 volunteers from area Home Depot stores and nonprofit Rebuilding Together Colorado Springs converged at the Stewarts’ house to “flip” the backyard, erect a flagpole in their front yard, repair cracked drywall and install safety items like smoke detectors.
In the coming days additional volunteers will repair the family’s leaking roof and investigate a problem with the house’s foundation.
“I’m overwhelmed and excited,” said Jayson as volunteers assembled a new wooden play set for his 2-year-old son, Jaycob, in the backyard.
“Jaycob is going to have a nice, safe place to play. He’s been forced to play in the front yard, and there’s traffic. The back yard — there’s always been broken glass, and dirt, and rocks.
“I didn’t ask for all this or expect it.”
Last month Jayson, in need of assistance with home repairs, contacted Rebuilding Together after learning about the organization from a VA representative.
Injuries he’d suffered during a 15-month deployment to Iraq at the height of the surge had left him non-deployable.
He was nearing medical retirement and wasn’t sure when his first VA disability check would come in. His roof was leaking, and winter was coming.
Lee Mizer, the executive director of Rebuilding Together Colorado Springs, “came running over” just hours after he contacted the organization, Jayson said.
“The weeds were as tall as me in the backyard,” Mizer said. “I met Jaycob and thought, ‘This is not working. This boy needs a place to play.’”
Mizer contacted the Home Depot Foundation, which has dedicated $80 million since 2011 to improving the homes of economically disadvantaged veterans.
The foundation agreed to pay for renovations at the Stewarts’ house and recruited volunteers from its employees at the Highlands Ranch, Parker and Colorado Springs stores.
One of those employees was Toni Dubose, a sales associate at the Highlands Ranch Home Depot who spent the day working in the Stewarts’ backyard with seven of her coworkers.
“Somebody has to do something to thank these guys for all they’ve done,” she said.
“This is what I can contribute. I can move a rake and a shovel.”
Working nearby was Staff Sgt. Harry McClure.
A supply airman stationed at Buckley Air Force Base, McClure was recruited for volunteer work by a civilian contractor whose girlfriend works at the home supply store.
Like Stewart, McClure has been to Iraq.
He was once greeted by a group of Vietnam veterans upon returning from a deployment in theater.
Being welcomed home by those who were treated so poorly upon their return left an impression on him, and he feels compelled share their kindness, he said.
“If I can do that for those after me, it just builds,” McClure said.