A veteran with ties to White Haven who was living out of a motel room for about two years will start 2014 inside a permanent home thanks to the help of friends and strangers.
At about 1 p.m. New Year's Eve, Bob "Ranger" Dolieden, a Vietnam veteran who served three tours as a Navy Seabee, was handed the keys to his newly remodeled and furnished home on Hemlock Street in White Haven. He was driven there from the Carbon County motel room he was living in as snow fell to the ground.
Surrounded by the volunteers who helped him and his family, Dolieden smiled as he took the keys.
It was only about a month ago when fellow members of the White Haven Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6615 found out Dolieden, who served as VFW chaplain upon his honorable discharge from the military, fell on hard times and didn't have a permanent home.
In not much time at all, that group of local people put up a united front to secure Dolieden, who suffers from medical problems associated with the herbicide Agent Orange, the home he so rightly deserved after serving his country, Bob Drury of the VFW said.
Bernie Bruzgulis, who not only went to school with the veteran but also boot camp, found the home, which was vacant for about three years and worked with the property owner, to allow Dolieden to rent it.
A December fundraiser was organized at the White Haven VFW in his honor to support the project of securing a home for him and donations came in from elsewhere as his story spread over the holidays while Dolieden was in the hospital.
Volunteers had been working on renovations at the single-story home since securing it for their friend in November. The home needed new flooring and other things, Drury said.
An unforeseen repair on the heating system, Drury said, temporarily delayed the group's plans to get Dolieden into his new home by Christmas but repairs have been completed. Drury said it's fitting that Dolieden gets to officially enjoy his new space as a new year begins.
"We got him in a little later than we planned but we completed our mission and found him a new home," Drury said.
Drury said Button Oil, Mountain Top, not only donated the first fill of heating fuel for the home but also offered labor to repair the home's heating system.
Many others made a donation or other gesture to help the project become a success, Drury said.
Furniture was donated including a recliner from Ashley Furniture new flooring and carpeting were installed and a television was purchased, though cable service is still needed.
His kitchen has been stocked with food and gift certificates were secured so he can buy more. Additionally, the Freeland American Legion donated $1,000 to the cause.
Dolieden, Drury said, has 99 percent of what he needs as he is waiting for a few smaller items to be delivered.
But most importantly, Dolieden can now receive better medical care as a visiting nurse service can tend to him now that he has a permanent address.
"A lot of people pulled together for him," Drury said, adding that Dolieden didn't realize how much people cared about him, including veterans, civilians, strangers and friends.
John Kearns, a veteran service officer in White Haven, said while remodeling the home in December, Dolieden thought people forgot about him.
Now he knows different.
Though the mission to get Dolieden a new home initially started as a surprise, Dolieden, a second class petty officer hull technician, eventually found out what was going on and was overjoyed, Drury said.
He was in tears upon hearing his friends found him a home, saying he would pray for everyone involved every night, Drury said.
On behalf of those working closely on the project for Dolieden, Drury said thank you to everyone involved.
"This really couldn't have been done without donations from the public," he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services