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Veteran's home gets extreme makeover by local volunteers

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Veteran's home gets extreme makeover by local volunteers

By Rikki Mitchell. CREATED May 10, 2014

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It all started with a quick trip to Home Depot five months ago.

"My wife asked me to get a light bulb for her and I walked down the aisle and Greg was trying to get something off the shelf," said Wayne Hilbert, who works in the local construction industry.

Hilbert says he offered to help, and that conversation sparked a friendship. Soon Wayne learned how hard it was for Greg Runkel, a disabled veteran, to get around his home.

"He had a couple of walls where his wheelchair kept hitting, and it was tearing up the walls," said Hilbert.

Hilbert offered to fix it the issue, word got around, and here we are today.

While Runkel visits his mother in Chigago, more than 25 people have volunteered their time to completely re-model his home and make it wheelchair accessible. That means new cabinets and appliances in his kitchen, wider doors, and a new deck in the backyard.

"We're just trying to make it easier and more comfortable for him to live in his home," said Hilbert.

The big reveal will happen May 17, when Runkel returns to Tucson. Hilbert says he knows about most of the work being done, but the group also has a surprise for him.

"I've been taking a lot of pictures and I've been sending them to him so he can see we're tearing his house apart," said Hilbert. "I know he's probably a little fearful right now when he sees how much it's torn apart."

Noah Smith and Jon Black are students in a construction class at CDO high school. They, along with eight of their classmates have volunteered their time for the project.

"It's just a real honor to do something for someone who sacrificed all of his freedom for our country and all of us," said Smith, who's also in the Flowing Wells Junior ROTC program. 

"Most of my family were Navy and Army," said Black. "So it's a joy just to give back and help out our military."

Hilbert says Runkel is very independent and will often get take his wheelchair to a nearby grocery store to get what he needs.

"Greg as any of our veterans is very proud, he's proud to be an American," said Hilbert. "He's just a phenomenal individual. He's going to be quite surprised when he sees the house."

 

Rikki Mitchell

Rikki Mitchell

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Rikki Mitchell is a proud University of Arizona grad and joined the KGUN9 team after graduation. Rikki reports as a video journalist for the evening and weekend newscasts.