When Indiana Legionnaire Mike Hirl received a phone call about a nearby disabled veteran whose mobile home was in disrepair, the original plan was to help repair the man’s home. But when Hirl and other members of his post saw the state of the mobile home, they knew repairs weren’t going to cut it.
The home belonging to U.S. Marine Corps and Army veteran Steve Edens had multiple leaks in its roof that caused water to fall into the living room whenever it rained. Edens had been using buckets to catch the rain, but the ceiling had been damaged, as had the home’s subfloor. Edens was using jackposts to support the roof.
“He’s gone through a lot of health issues, and he’s still going through some, and I think that kind of distracted him from seeking help a little sooner,” said Hirl, an American Legion Rider and the service officer for Post 341 in Cicero. “We initially tried to figure out a way to seal up the roof. So I got (Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6246 in nearby Noblesville) involved because I know the commander, and some of our members are also members of the post there. We kind of put our heads together and decided really that fixing this trailer wasn’t worth it. There was so much moisture damage in the trailer. It really wasn’t a healthy environment for Steve to be in.”
That started a fundraising effort to purchase Edens a new mobile home, an effort that ended up involving members of the community, other American Legion posts and local businesses. By the end of the effort, enough had been raised to demolish Edens’ former trailer, buy him a slightly used two-bedroom 2013 mobile home, and then install it on a concrete foundation where his old home used to sit.
Hirl set up a GoFundMe page for Edens, but the effort also received local support. The Remnant Coffee Shop in nearby Arcadia conducted a fundraiser to assist the effort, raising over $9,000. K.V. Elliott American Legion Post 67 in Sheridan, Ind., and American Legion Post 310 in Kirklin, Ind., donated, as did members of Post 341 and VFW Post 6246.
“All in all, we raised about $32,000 in cash to buy the trailer,” Hirl said.
A slight snag occurred when Hirl found out that the mobile home was required to be placed on a foundation. He began reaching out to local contractors – many of whom already were members of either Post 341 or the VFW.
“We’re blessed with some very skilled tradesmen,” Hirl said. “We have earth moving and excavation (workers) that are members of our posts. We have electricians, and heating and air conditioning (workers) and block layers, and every one of those people donated their labor to get this foundation built.”
Other companies stepped forward to provide free dumpster service during demolition, and the blocks, mortar and sand for the foundation wall, which was completed April 25.
“There have just been a whole lot of companies that have supported us,” Hirl said. “It was really awesome to see how companies were willing to help a disabled veteran.”
Hirl said Edens has been very grateful for the assistance. “This goes way beyond what he thought,” he said. “He was just hoping to have his room stop leaking. But the old trailer was full of black mold. We weren’t sure how we were going to proceed. But I knew I wasn’t going to give up on a brother. We were going to right this situation, and the best thing to do was get him a new trailer.”
Hirl also said the success of the effort was an example of what can happen when American Legion posts work with other veterans service organizations toward a common goal.
“I think it’s really awesome that the VFW has partnered with The American Legion,” Hirl said. “Our veterans organizations working together on a single cause are more efficient, and that’s what has happened here.”