Angels with iPads and Tool Belts Help Blair Vet and Wife

May 1, 2024

Angels with iPads and Tool Belts Help Blair Vet and Wife

Two years ago, an invasion of angels with iPads and tool belts came into the lives of a retired Blair pastor and Army veteran and his wife.

For Dan and Annie, it wasn’t as if the angels came down from heaven, but they were heaven-sent, Dan said. It all happened at a Habitat for Humanity of Omaha Rock the Block event in May 2022.

Rock the Block events harness the power of volunteers to clean up and do minor repairs in a neighborhood. The events encourage and inspire people to become active in their neighborhood and help transform it.

The couple moved to Blair from New York 50 years ago to seek a better life, far away from the crime and craziness of a big city. They lived on a farm, and Dan worked as a cabinet maker. He later became a pastor, and “my whole life changed,” he said. Dan worked with the homeless, drug addicts and alcoholics. The couple provided foster care to 25 children, including a daughter they adopted.

But after retiring in 2008, the couple’s 123-year-old, 800-square-foot, two-bedroom house in northwest Blair needed some help. Dan and Annie, both in their 80s, were not able to keep up with the home’s growing upkeep needs.

That’s when Habitat Omaha’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Mitch Strong, knocked on the door. Strong received a referral that the family could use a helping hand. “Mitch got in touch with us and said we’re going to help you out,” Dan said. “We didn’t know what that meant.”

That became clear when the volunteers showed up, Dan said. “I looked out the window, and it seemed like we were being invaded. They were swarming. It was so exciting. There was an eagerness about them.

“We had 15 volunteers at our house,” Dan said. “They came with shovels, brooms and rakes and went to town.” The OPPD and neighborhood volunteers cleaned up and mulched flower beds, painted the front porch and a backyard fence, removed a tree stump, brought in gravel, and leveled their driveway, making it safe to walk without tripping or spraining an ankle. “I was struck by how enthusiastic they were.”

But the story does not end here. The Rock the Block crew identified some other problems with the house. Dan and Annie were referred to Habitat Omaha’s Veterans Repair program, which is dedicated to helping those who served to maintain safe, quality homes.

The house has soffit and fascia damage. The bathroom also needs replacing, with plans to put in a walk-in tub and shower. That work is scheduled to begin soon, and the couple looks forward to the renovations.

Even with the ups and downs of life, Dan said there is no regret about moving to Blair from New York. The couple has five children and 20 grandchildren raised here and are making their way in life.

And now, Dan said, the couple is grateful for Habitat. Not solely for the work they did but for the people. “We are Christians,” Dan said. “We believe in Jesus, and He takes care of us – not like sending an angel down from heaven. He takes care of us through other people.”

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