In the throes of the Covid pandemic, back on January 12th, 2021, Glendale, Arizona residents Gean LeVar and her husband of 58 years of marriage, Thomas, went to bed with the expectation that they would go to the park the next morning.
The next morning whilst they were getting dressed, Gean watched her husband die.
The paramedics and the police found them in terrible living conditions, the house was in great disrepair.
And within an hour of transporting Thomas to the morgue, the police condemned the house and forbade Gean from spending one more night.
So, now she was a widow and homeless, as she and Thomas didn’t have children and were both the last of their families, and she had but little resources to rebuild and move on.
She literally had no where to go, no one to turn to, and sat in a chair in what was once her front yard, grief stricken and numb, completely numb.
And then Carmen Silva came into her yard and knelt down to comfort her neighbor.
The Silva’s are a family of ten that live at the end of the block, and they didn’t know each other very well.
They waved or smiled in passing, and sometimes chatted about the mundane.
But this is a very special family.
Said Carmen, “I told her, ‘Don’t worry, Gean, we’re going to fix it.'”
She helped Gean collect some of her things, and she took her to her new home.
The house isn’t as big as their hearts, and the three boys moved their things so their new adopted grandma could have her own bedroom.
And they began to share the couch.
When Steve Hartman remarked that she was really going over and beyond, Carmen replied, “I don't see that,” she said. “I’ve always taught my kids to take care of their elders.”
For 16 months.
16 months of knowing that she was a valued member of a family.
Of their family.
A stunned Gean LeVar stating that her place in their family “means everything”.
It would have been much longer than 16 months, but you see, other beautiful members of the community were very busy on their end, to make Gean’s house once more a home.
You see, Thomas was a veteran of the United States Navy.
It took 16 months of hard work to get to this point.
Close to 200 volunteers, including veterans, students and those connected to the veteran community put in thousands of hours for a total rebuild of the house built in the 1950s. A home that had fallen into disrepair.
“There are resources in place that help the majority of veterans but there are some that fall through the gap. This one fell through the gap,” Founder and CEO of Operation Enduring Gratitude Charlie Ellis said.
Ellis, an Army veteran, founded the nonprofit that helps with home repair and rebuilding for veterans and their families.
Said Charlie, “Like I said before, it takes an army to serve an army. We’re all joining together to do one thing to make someone’s life better. Thank you for allowing us to do this work.
The amount of gratitude to be expressed to this crowd is unbelievable.”
And, with her new family, she moved back into her other home.
But this is an awful big house for just one person.
And it won’t be.
Because Gean has instituted an open door policy for her extended family, her children and grandchildren.
Because that’s what grandmothers do.
Because that’s what families do.
How I wish that I had a link for the Silva’s, so those so inclined had a way to thank them as they see fit.
In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about Operation Enduring Gratitude, or donate time, experience or what have you, please visit https://www.oegaz.org/.