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Soaked volunteers build deck for local veteran

Jeffrey Boehner, manager of the Home Depot in Maplewood, (left) works with Chip Evanoff, owner of L3 Construction in Cottage Grove. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
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A crew of volunteers didn’t allow a virtual nor’easter keep them from their mission: rebuild a backyard deck at the Cottage Grove home of a disabled veteran.

Employees of area Home Depot stores and members of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Cottage Grove braved gusting wind and slashing rain Oct. 21 to replace the structure at the home of Sheletta and Shawn Brundidge.

Its rotted wood and shaky railing posed a particular hazard for the couple and their children, Andrew 11, Brandon 5, Cameron, 4, and Daniel, 2. Brandon, Cameron and Daniel all have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Shawn Brundidge, a Navy veteran, has limited use of his legs due to sickle cell anemia, his wife said.  

“We are a middle-class family,” she said. “We’re not below the poverty level or anything. Whatever little extra funding we have goes for therapy or medication or whatever.”

They applied for a grant through the Home Depot Foundation, whose Team Depot network of employee volunteers build or repair homes for veterans.

“I think it’s just a great service they provide,” Brundidge said. “They get so many requests a week from veterans all over the country and for them to pick us, we feel so honored.”

How wet was it? It was so wet you probably could have dried off by jumping into the Mississippi. Bursts of rain sideswiped volunteers as they worked. Water dripped from the clean shaven head of Jeffrey Boehner, manager of the Home Depot in Maplewood, as he knelt on the deck and drove in screws with an electric drill. Below deck, Evan Anderson, an employee at Home Depot in Blaine, handed pieces of lumber up to Chip Evanoff, owner of L3 Construction in Cottage Grove.

Home Depot partnered with Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Cottage Grove on the project.

“We heard about her story and we jumped on it pretty quickly because we really wanted to help,” Yellow Ribbon chair Kate Hoelscher said. “One of the things that Beyond the Yellow Ribbon does really well is set up a network of people. When we received this request and knew we had to pull in volunteers for it, it was really quite simple.”

They enlisted the help of 3M-Cottage Grove Veterans of Steel, a group of 3M employees who are members of United Steelworkers Local 418. They included Navy veteran Travis Lohmann and Army veteran Joe Gamnis.

Home Depot district manager Jeff Nyberg served as captain of the construction team.

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon co-chair Raymond Kane said they weren’t going to cancel the build because of a little wind and rain. Kane, of Cottage Grove, is a veteran of the Army

Reserves and Minnesota National Guard.

“There’s a saying in the military: ‘If it ain’t raining it, ain’t training,’”  he said. “For these guys, it’s just a normal flashback to being in the military.”

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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