BURRILLVILLE – An effort that began with the concern of a local police officer has united a community in helping a Korean War veteran, with residents donating some $10,000 in just six days to finance a new home for a man living in very poor conditions.
“No one knew,” said Raymond Trinque, commander of American Legion Post 88. “People drive by and probably didn’t even realize there was someone living there.”
The house where 83-year-old Paul Tellier has lived alone for many years has no running water, limited heat and in some places no roof. The veteran had a stroke several years ago, and does not have family living nearby. His home is on the verge of being condemned.
Trinque, who does outreach to local veterans through his organization, learned of the problem from Burrillville Police Patrol Sgt. Brian Pitts. Trinque alerted Greg Stringfellow, regional homeless coordinator for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to Tellier’s situation.
Stringfellow alerted other local groups that aim to help veterans, and work began to secure a trailer for Tellier, addressing immediate safety issues for the Burrillville native.
From there, the cause took on a life of its own.
Tellier’s plight was published on a Facebook page made for past and present Burrillville residents, and many people expressed an interest in helping.
Kevin Stockwell, a local teacher, was among them.
“Hopefully we can get a huge group of volunteers there,” Stockwell wrote on April 4.
Stockwell began organizing those who wish to help, and contacted one of the organizations that was working with Tellier – New Englanders Helping Our Veterans.
He also visited the home, and started a fundraiser on Facebook on Saturday, April 6.
“Those of us who went there today have determined, with the help a structural engineer and it’s our professional opinion, it is not safe to fix the house,” Stockwell noted in the fundraising page. “We are looking for volunteers, materials and money to build the elderly war veteran a new single family, one level handicap accessible home on his current property.”
By Thursday, nearly 250 people had donated and the cause had raised $10,165.
The group is gathering donated materials to start building a new house, and organizing a growing list of those who can volunteer labor.
If anything is leftover, money raised in the fundraiser will allow high school construction students to complete jobs for other local, needy veterans
A meeting will be held on Thursday, April 25 at Burrillville High School for anyone who wants to volunteer or donate.
For Trinque, it’s gratifying to have played a role.
“We’re 25 men and women and we can only get so much done by ourselves,” he said of the American Legion.
“These are tricky situations,” Trinque added. “He didn’t want to leave his home.”
“One thing these vets have in common is they’re never going to ask for it,” Trinque said. “They do deserve it and if we’re capable of doing it, we’re glad to do it.”
“Everyone needs a hand once in awhile.”