More volunteers, donors needed to help local veteran

(photo courtesy Kayla Arnold)

TALLULAH FALLS – More than a dozen volunteers showed up in the rain Tuesday to help a local veteran clean up his Tallulah Falls property. They worked from early morning until mid-afternoon loading two dumpsters with trash and debris.

“We took down trees, trimmed bushes, and took a dump truck load of gravel for the parking area,” says local contractor James Welborn. Welborn helped organize the cleanup effort with Tallulah Falls Police Chief Tonya Elrod and fellow Habersham Countian Bob Williams.

Volunteers filled two dumpsters full of trash and debris. Another community cleanup day is set for Saturday, July 24, starting at 7:30 a.m.

According to Elrod, volunteers shed “blood, sweat, and tears” cleaning up the overgrown property. “We made great progress today,” she says, adding she’s “super thankful for the few that turned up to help.”

Around nineteen volunteers showed up at the worksite on July 20, half as many as were expected. Organizers suspect heavy rain kept many people away. They hope that won’t be the case this weekend.

The group has scheduled another community cleanup day starting at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 24. Organizers invite anyone 16 or older who’d like to help to attend.

“I’m a little disappointed that more volunteers didn’t show up today, but we’re hoping for a better turnout on Saturday,” says Elrod. “We still have a long way to go.”

Cross Cut Tree Service and HEMC in Clarkesville are working together to remove trees from the property. Lowe’s in Cornelia and Fieldale Farms also offered help. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7720 donated money.

Even with the small army of volunteers they’ve recruited, it’s going to take more manual labor and resources to get the job done. “The house is beyond repair,” says Welborn. He estimates it would cost between $100,000 and $120,000 to rebuild. The group intends to reach out to a local charitable builder’s organization to see if they’ll help.

“I’ve got a week to figure out how to get this house torn down and a mini-home built for him,” Welborn says, referring to the veteran whose name is not being released publicly out of respect for his privacy.

In the meantime, Chief Elrod has arranged for the veteran and his service dog to stay in a hotel. The management even arranged for a mobile groomer to come to them. The VFW is said to be working with the veteran on his VA benefits.

Although the volunteer labor pool was a bit shallow on Tuesday, Welborn calls it “a very blessed day.” He’s hoping for another one Saturday. If you’d like to volunteer, you may drop in throughout the day starting at 7:30 a.m. on July 24. Look for the check-in signs on Main Street in Tallulah Falls, just off U.S. 441/GA 15.

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