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Celebration of Service In Mantua

Team Depot -- Home Depot Volunteers including District Manager Jeff Miller, Team Depot District Captain Chris Schigel, Merchandise Manager Paul (with wife Hillary) Onuska, and Store Manager Jason Eidam, along with local volunteers Ronnie Kotkowski and Linda Elhert, surround local veteran Bud Foster.
Team Depot — Home Depot Volunteers including District Manager Jeff Miller, Team Depot District Captain Chris Schigel, Merchandise Manager Paul (with wife Hillary) Onuska, and Store Manager Jason Eidam, along with local volunteers Ronnie Kotkowski and Linda Elhert, surround local veteran Bud Foster.

Mantua – Mantua Township resident Bud Foster, a U.S. Army and Korean War veteran, is a two-time Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. And although his home was in desperate need of repair, he’s also is one of the last people to ask for help. Luckily, his friends and neighbors didn’t wait for him to ask. Noticing the yard was in need of more work than the 84-year-old could complete on his own, his neighbor, Linda Ehlert, decided to see how she could help. She met with Bud and discovered that in addition to the landscaping project, Bud needed help on a number of home improvement projects both inside and outside his home.
The home he and his late wife, Rose, had shared since the late nineties, had fallen into disrepair. Improvements were needed to make the historic home safe and accessible. You see, Rose’s childhood home, which had been used as a schoolhouse, was purchased by her family in 1939. And while the couple has spent the majority of their married life in Hermosa Beach, California, caring for Rose’s father brought Rose and Bud both to Mantua in the late 90s.
The timing of the return trip was ideal, since both Bud and Rose had recently retired from their previous careers, he as a truck driver, and she in the banking industry. During their visit, the couple decided to stay. “We met some of the nicest, most welcoming people, and that made us want to stay,” explained Bud, the California-native. They eventually purchased the home after his father-in-law passed; settling in and setting up space for Bud’s artistic endeavors as a commercial illustrator. While they no longer had family nearby, they soon became quite involved in their new hometown.
Eventually, the couple had begun renovating their home, starting with the kitchen and downstairs bathroom. It was then that the couple received Rose’s cancer diagnosis, and those projects were put on hold as Bud spent time and resources caring for his ailing wife. Five years after his wife lost her battle with the disease, the historic home they once shared was in need of some serious help.
As president of the Mantua Historical Society, Linda Elhert has researched grant opportunities, and was pleased to learn of a special grant offered by The Home Depot Foundation, providing assistance to veterans. With assistance from Ronnie Kotkowski of the nearby Shalersville Historical Society, plans were set in motion, and the grant request was made. The pair was elated when they learned Bud was chosen as a recipient. Bud was humbled by the efforts. “I thought they were trying to get me to join some military organization,” Bud explained. “When the guys from Home Depot came in, I thought, ‘This is serious.’”
Their work helped make Bud Foster’s projects a part of Home Depot’s national Celebration of Service campaign, a program that improves the lives of military veterans across the country. In addition to providing materials, including paint, cabinetry, lighting and flooring, local Home Depot associates from nine stores across the region converged in Mantua last week on their days off to complete the needed projects in the kitchen, bathroom, and outdoor projects. “This is unbelievable,” Bud marveled. “There’s an awful lot of guys in a bad way,” he added, “I hope that what’s happening for me can happen to them, too. I feel guilty that it’s me,” he added, as emotion gripped his voice. “I hope I can be a spokesman for them.”
Paul Onuska, Merchandise Manager at the Home Depot in Bainbridge, shared, “This is just one way we’re doing more for veterans.” The project was of special interest to Onuska, since he lives in the community as well. In fact, he and his wife, Hillary, gave up an anniversary trip in order to help out with the project. In total, over 60 Home Depot team members volunteered to serve. But giving back to veterans is personal at The Home Depot, since more than 35,000 of the company’s associates have served in the military.
Interestingly enough, the Corian® countertop installed in the kitchen was one that Rose herself had selected to match the lower cabinets, both from Home Depot all those years ago. “I would never dream in a million years that something like this would happen,” Bud marveled. “And even though she’s not here, this is for Rose.”
Bainbridge Store Manager Jason Eidam shared that during the time frame of September 11th through November 11th, thousands of Home Depot associates from across the country volunteer so that every veteran has a safe place to call home. This project is just one of 14 taking place in the Ohio Valley region.
Since 2011, local companies pitched in as well, including Lakeside Sand & Gravel, which donated materials, machinery and labor to paint the home’s exterior; Terry Macone at ProFlow, who installed new gutters; Jack Lynch, who poured a sidewalk, Oscar Brugmann who provided concrete, and Nash Landscaping. Local caterers Sam and Trish Eisele provided lunch and dinner for volunteers.
Home Depot Foundation has invested approximately $213 million in veteran-related projects, part of the foundation’s quarter of a billion dollar pledge to veteran-related causes by 2020. In partnership with Team Depot, the 400,000-strong army of associate volunteers, the organization has positively impacted more than 34,500 veterans’ homes and helped more than 3,700 communities. To learn more, visit CelebrationOfService.com

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