Veteran’s home repaired as Patriot Day project
Union members volunteer their services to aid McKeesport resident John Joseph.
By JEFF STITT
A local veteran who was getting rained on while he slept in his bed can now rest more comfortably thanks to a Patriot Day service project in McKeesport.
Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. In the years since the terrorist attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and on United Flight 92, Sept. 11 is observed each year as Patriot Day.
On the annual occasion, the nation pays tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who died as a result of the terrorist attacks and says a nationwide “thank you” to first responders, veterans, and members of the military. Many businesses, groups, individuals and organizations participate in service projects in observance of Patriot Day.
Around 10 skilled laborers from The International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 57 donated funding, time and labor Saturday to do a service project at an 86-year-old veteran’s home in McKeesport in partnership with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh.
“The International Union of Painters & Allied Trades has been a great partner with RTP over the years,” and Andy Hromoko Jr., who oversees RTP projects in McKeesport and the Mon Valley. “Through their Day of Action, they like to serve folks by providing a day of professional drywall, plaster and painting work.”
The union members spent the day at Navy veteran John Joseph’s Packer Street home to repair is second- and third-floor ceilings and walls that were significantly damaged by what Hromoko described as “a massive roof leak.”
“RTP was able to put a new roof on the house last year along with some other work, but just did not have enough funding to address all the drywall and plaster damage which is a bit unsafe,” Hromoko said. “Thanks to the IUPAT, the work can now be done and they are providing all the materials and labor free of charge.”
Early last year, the city, the McKeesport Point Development Corp. and RTP partnered to apply for and secured funding through the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s neighborhood partnership tax-credit program to rehab several homes in McKeesport over the next six years. RTP has also been seeking other corporate donors and grant funding to contribute to home improvement projects.
The McKeesport projects are focused on making homes safe, healthy and efficient.
Joseph’s old slate roof was recently replaced with a modern roof with shingles. Additionally, an old fuse box was replaced with a more modern breaker panel and ramp and railing on the front of the house were reinforced using the NPP dollars, Hromoko said, adding that because replacing the roof and doing the other work was so costly there wasn’t enough money in the budget to do things like fix water-damaged ceilings and walls in the upstairs bedrooms.
“Hs whole ceiling in his second floor, he was literally sleeping in there and water was coming down in there,” Hromoko said, later adding, “We can only do so much with the funds we have and we count on this kind of stuff.”
“When IUPAT contacted me this year and asked if they could help out and were really hoping to serve a veteran, I had the ideal spot for them,” Hromoko said of Joseph’s house.
IUPAT field representative Claire Cawley said the union makes a point of doing community service projects.
“We like to partner with groups that have values similar to ours. Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh is definitely one of those groups because they like to improve the communities in which they work and that’s a major goal of ours, too,” she said, adding that the IUPAT workers love getting the chance to offer their craft in service to U.S. veterans.
“We figured this would be a great project because we were hanging new drywall and making it look nice,” Cawley said.
“The house was pretty dismayed,” said IUPAT spokesman AJ Croll of Joseph’s home. “He had blasting falling down off the ceilings. What we did was make it safe and give him a healthy place to live.”
When AJ’s wife, Amy Croll, heard he and fellow union members were serving a veteran through their community service project, she wanted to get involved by thanking Joseph for his service.
Amy Croll works as a social worker in Cambria County and belongs to a group called We Honor Veterans. On Saturday, she presented Joseph with a red, white and blue handmade quilt and a certificate of appreciation.
She is also helping Joseph learn how he can get connected with assistance and benefits programs through the U.S. Veterans Administration and other programs designed to help and support veterans.
A.J. Croll, a U.S. Marine, and other union members who are veterans also presented Joseph with a plaque to thank him for his service.
“I really feel you really need to give back to your community, not only in places where you live but where you work as well,” A.J. Croll said.
“As union members, we love to lend our skills to great causes like this,” Cawley said. “We have plenty of members who are veterans, so it hits close to home.”
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko and City Administrator Tom Maglicco, a U.S. Army veteran, visited the house Saturday to check out the work done there and to thank the union members for their community service. The mayor also thanked Joseph for his service in the Navy.
Maglicco pinned Joseph with a veteran pin from the city and gave him a salute to thank him for his service.
Joseph was overcome with emotion multiple times as he saw the work union members were doing at his home, and was seen more than one time putting his hands to his cheeks as he smiled in amazement of the beautiful work the tradespeople did.
“I’ll tell you what, they’re magnificent. They’re great. They’ve done so much for me. It’s unbelievable,” Joseph said. “The work is so good. It’s perfect, and they’re all good to me.”
“Oh my God,” he said as he clutched his face while thinking about all the work that’s been done at his home. “I’m just so grateful that it’s unbelievable.”
Joseph said he worked hard his whole life trying to support his late wife and that he did his best over the years to do upkeep on the house.
But he admits that his age makes it harder for him to get around and do the heavy lifting and that it’s expensive to do home repair.
“I would never be able to do it. I’d have to move out or something,” he said. “Before they did that roof, every time I went to bed I had to keep moving the bed over because it would drip water on me and the roof was leaking so darn bad. They put a new roof on for me and it’s terrific. No leaks or anything.”
He said that with the new roof and the work done by the union members “everything is perfect now.”
“They’re doing a fantastic job. I can’t believe everything that they do for me,” he said.
Hromoko said RTP is also trying to secure funding to make repairs to Joseph’s bathroom. As a result of water damage from the leaking roof, the bathroom needs repairs.
The group also held a moment of silence before getting to work Saturday to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the people who last their lives that day.
“This was the day they selected, and because it’s such a significant day to begin with, what a better way to be remembering a veteran than IUPAT coming out to serve a veteran,” Hromko said.
Read the original article from the Mon Valley Independent here: https://monvalleyindependent.com/2021/09/veterans-home-repaired-as-patriot-day-project/