Story and image by Laura Coyle
Pictured, right: Construction Manager Steve Reinfeldt, homeowner Lonnie Dixon and Dick Perucci from Our Next Mission
Homeowner Lonnie Dixon served in the military for three decades. Now he lives in a small home in Bradenton, and on Saturday, Manatee Habitat for Humanity team leaders and volunteers made exterior repairs and painted the entire house. Veterans from Our Next Mission and student athletes from State College of Florida armed with tape, rollers, brushes and a new front door made a quick and happy day of it.
In 1954, Lonnie Dixon fought in Korea as an Army artillery section leader and after a two-year tour, returned home to Florida. He joined the Army Reserves, and six years later, he helped make history as one of a small group of African American men to be the first to integrate into the Florida National Guard. Lonnie is now in his eighties, having retired in 1985. He needs help maintaining his small home, but stands tall – exactly the way one would expect from a lifelong military man – as he speaks with gratitude of the support and friendship as he has found with the volunteers and fellow veterans from Manatee Habitat and their home rehabilitation partners from Our Next Mission.
Manatee Habitat is known for building houses but are unique in that they also provide major repairs for homeowners allowing them to remain safely in their homes and improve their quality of life. Veterans Jim Cullum and Bob Seller of Our Next Mission contacted Diana Shoemaker, CEO at Manatee Habitat about the rehabilitation program and a new partnership was formed. With Veteran's Day just around the corner, the organizations hope to draw attention to veterans in our community who need help.
"We are honored to help veterans and partner with such a great team," said Shoemaker. "It is heartwarming to see the camaraderie among the veterans and volunteers and rewarding to watch our community grow stronger – together – one home at a time.
The two organizations are also hosting an event called "A Celebration of Service" on Veteran's Day, Monday, November 11, from 6-9 p.m. at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing in Lakewood Ranch. Southern BBQ will be served and "Nothin' Past Midnite & the Dave Lewis Singers" will perform live music. The event sponsor is Budweiser and proceeds benefit Manatee Habitat Veteran Home Rehab Program.
Information about Manatee Habitat's Home Rehab Program partners Our Next Mission can be found at www.ournextmission.org