Gilbert Lopez recently received one of the greatest gifts — a renovated home he can call his own. But more than that, as he looks around at the walls and cabinets and flooring, he knows there is an army of volunteers who care.
Years ago, the home on North 54th Drive near downtown Glendale was damaged by fire. Lopez, a U.S. Army veteran, lived for about five years in the dilapidated home, which didn’t have much by the way of plumbing or drywall.
That’s when Operation Enduring Gratitude got involved and everything changed.
The Phoenix nonprofit’s founder, Charles Ellis, said this is the fifth house Operation Enduring Gratitude has helped rebuild. The organization helps veterans by arranging anything from wheelchair ramps to minor touch-ups to total makeovers.
“It was basically open to the studs, no insulation, no plumbing,” Ellis said.
It was a big job. So Ellis reached out to Glendale Mayor Jerry P. Weiers, who jumped at the chance to help Lopez.
“I have a huge heart for veterans,” Weiers explained. “I started calling people, and soon we had a lot of people who would help.”
Many people in the area gladly helped a man they didn’t know because they appreciated Lopez’s service to his country. Lopez served in the U.S. Army from 1961 to 1964.
G&G Specialty Contractors came on board. Southwest Gas put in a gas line for free. American Furniture Warehouse offered a gift card for furniture. Blue Star Moms went through his personal belongings, painted and installed cabinets. Even the roof is new.
In all, 24 vendors offered free or reduced-cost products and labor.
Lopez and the team of volunteers met on July 6 for a ceremony for which the Patriot Guard Riders lined the sidewalk with flags.
The Glendale Police Department chaplain started the morning with a prayer. Then Lopez was given another gift — a U.S. flag to display proudly on his new flag pole. The flag had flown at the U.S. Capital, the Arizona Capital, and also the highest point in Glendale.
“I just want to thank everybody,” Lopez said at the ceremony. “I was not expecting it.”
Ceremony attendees were able to tour the home, which will be a place of refuge for a deserving Glendale veteran for years to come.