“It’s a beautiful day for it, at least,” said Marion resident Pam Jeffers as car after car full of volunteers descended upon the burned-out trailer home of her brother, Ron Staats, at 974 Bennett Street in Marion early Saturday morning.
After a brief roll-call and safety briefing, the more than 30 men and women got right to work. They came from all over the state and from all walks of life, with one common thread among them: All answered the call to help a fellow veteran in need.
Most were military veterans and either belonged to Team Rubicon or Team Red, White and Blue (RWB).
Team Rubicon puts the skills of veterans to work during disasters both large and small. Team RWB is focused on connecting veterans to their communities through physical and social activities but have expanded their reach in the form of small-scale service projects.
Staats’ home, a single-wide trailer, was deemed a total loss in a fire Jan. 6. Staats, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, barely got out of the fire alive, suffering severe burns to his head and minor burns to his left ear and face. The home had to come down.
Jeffers, who lives around the corner from Staats, took him in while they figured out what to do. After several phone calls, Jeffers was put in touch with Wendy Anders, director of the Marion County Veterans Service Office.
“Ron has been to my office once, but that was a long time ago. It took some convincing by his sister that he couldn’t go it alone this time and to come in and seek help with his situation,” Anders said.
“Once he finally came in, we got the ball rolling”, Anders said. She heard that Team Rubicon sometimes will help out when not responding to major disasters so she gave them a try. Michael Metzger, state administrator for Ohio in Team Rubicon’s Region V, said he would be happy to help out.
Metzger called in Team Rubicon members from all over Ohio and reached out to Team RWB Columbus for help as well.
Team Rubicon and Team RWB have worked together on some national initiatives such as Run as One, a run/walk in honor of Marine Corps veteran Clay Hunt, held the second Saturday in April.
“These partnerships keep opening up more doors and possibilities,” Metzger said.
For the members of Team Rubicon and Team RWB Columbus, the day was all about a shared sense of purpose.
As the new generation of veterans comes home from war, new organizations like Teams Rubicon and RWB are stepping up to give them a chance to connect with their communities using skills and leadership they honed in the military on projects such as this.
The best part is these newer groups are not exclusively made up of veterans. Team RWB encourages civilians to join their ranks and Team Rubicon welcomes first responders as members.
“We have everyone here,” Metzger said. “We have civilians, we have military and we have first responders.”
Both Team RWB and Team Rubicon aim to bridge the gap between civilians and veterans by creating new connections that foster a deeper understanding through fitness activities, social events and service projects such as this one.
The best part of the whole day was when Team RWB Columbus member Jodi Wisecarver rescued Staats’ Army uniform from one of the bedrooms.
“Here you go sweetheart,” she said presenting the uniform to him. “It’s not burnt…It’s perfect.”
“Got your name tag on it and everything,” Jeffers said.
The look on Staats’ face said it all. He couldn’t believe it.
Anders said she is working on getting Staats a new trailer to put on the lot as Staats couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
Within the space of four hours the contents of the trailer were emptied, the metal sides were ripped off and teams of volunteers were pulling several heavy duty straps in unison, causing what was left of the roof and walls to collapse on itself.
“All I did was make one phone call, and all this is the result. It’s just amazing,” Anders said. “I can’t believe all this came out of one phone call.”
“It was a blessing to be able to help. I will do it again,” Wisecarver said.