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Veteran and longtime Arlingtonian gets needed home repairs from volunteers

(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) When volunteers hung a starch-stiff American flag on a shed belonging to 89-year-old local veteran William Johnson, he told them how proud he was to have served his country.

“You are so wonderful,” Johnson told the volunteers from Navy Federal Credit Union earlier that day. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”

The flag replaces a worn one that hung from the same spot for 20 years, according to a blog post from the credit union. Employees placed the finishing touch after they and staff from the nonprofit Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church finished repairs on his red-brick Arlington home of 50 years.

Johnson served in the U.S. National Guard and Army in the 1950s and moved into the right half of a side-by-side duplex in 1966, after he and his late wife, Daisy, got married. There, they raised a daughter, who now lives down the street; worked for Virginia Hospital Center; and were active in a local church.

But the home where he and Daisy lived out their years began to show signs of aging. Johnson, a retiree on a fixed income, could neither do the work himself nor afford help. So Navy Federal teamed up with the local nonprofit Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church, which makes home repairs for Northern Virginians in need.

“Houses need maintenance. Things change, our bodies change, and we have to adapt our homes to our bodies,” Patti Klein, the nonprofit’s executive director, tells ARLnow. “At the same time, Navy Federal wanted to work on a home of someone who served in the military. We thought it was a perfect fit.”

After volunteers wrapped up their day of service, many returned on Saturday for more jobs, though they did not have to, Klein said. The resulting work, spanning up carpentry, landscaping, painting and other jobs, moved Johnson.

“He was thrilled, he really was, and when they came back on Saturday, he was very touched by it,” Klein said.

Navy Federal Credit Union, which is headquartered in Vienna, serves military communities and “embraces and encourages service among its nearly 25,000 employees,” per the blog post.

“We believe in coming together for the community and for people who have served our military and our country, and this really embodies that,” Sun Bayless, senior vice president of Real Estate Lending at Navy Federal, told volunteers that Saturday. “We’re ready to roll up our sleeves.”

The credit union says volunteers have supported 30 projects benefiting four area low-income homeowners and 26 nonprofit organizations, several of which serve the veterans.

In Arlington, Klein says employees have helped on a number of projects, including building an outdoor classroom at Carlin Springs Elementary School.

“They really believe in community and giving back,” she said.

In total last year, the local chapter of Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit, spruced up 115 homes, Klein said. Of them, 90% had a resident over the age of 65 and 60% had a resident with a disability. The homes tend to be older and need more work as well as aging-in-place modifications.

With Giving Tuesday around the corner, Klein says Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church welcomes financial donations, volunteers who can work on weekdays or weekends and client referrals.

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