Richard McFall has some pep in his step and there’s a good reason why.
A month ago, the 72-year-old Navy veteran walked into the Havelock Senior Center and announced that his own family had put him out on the streets.
McFall was homeless, destitute and depressed.
That has all changed, though, thanks to the kindness and generosity of Havelock residents, he says.
McFall now has an apartment, furnishings, benefits and perhaps most important of all, new friends that have restored his sense of dignity.
“It’s a good feeling not to be in the situation I was in,” McFall said Tuesday at the Havelock Senior Center. “The people have really helped me out. That’s for sure. So much has changed.”
A.D. Brady has seen it.
“From the first time I met him to today, he’s a completely different person. He’s cheerful. He’s got his confidence back, and now he knows that people do care for him,” said Brady, director of the Havelock Senior Center. “The most important thing that has to be said is that when a person is evicted, it made him quite depressed, but now he’s a changed man.”
When McFall showed up at the center, his head was hanging low. He looked like a man with only a few dollars in his pocket.
Bob Branscome, janitor at the Senior Center and member of the committee for distressed veterans for the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, took McFall home so he could wash his clothes. He fed him and spent time with him. Bob Warren, chaplain for the same organization, also took him home. The DAV got McFall a room at the Sherwood Motel.
Brady then called the Havelock News, which featured the downtrodden man on its front page on Thanksgiving Day in a story on homelessness in Havelock.
“Once that article came out, people were just overwhelming, going up to his hotel room and leaving cookies and cakes and just showing that they care,” Brady said. “Some people just came by to say thank you for your service. It says Havelock has a lot of caring people in it.”
People have come from all over to help. McFall got a good deal on an apartment to rent. The VFW made a large contribution towards his rent and deposit.
“The knitting group has kind of adopted him and gotten him a lot of things that he needed,” Brady said. “The (Senior Center) Advisory Board has gotten a lot of things that he needed.”
Winter jackets, socks, toasters, microwaves, televisions, anything McFall needed, started showing up.
“The material things have been just overwhelming,” Brady said. “People have been coming out and giving him so many items that now we’re kind of screening them for him to keep him from getting duplicate items.
“They may not be the most luxurious, but he has his basic needs met right now and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Not only were the material things important, socialization and the outpouring of kindness were priceless, Brady said.
“We got in contact with Social Services to get him signed up for food stamps. We put him in for a pension with the Veterans Administration because his income was so low,” Brady said. “We did a lot of things that we normally do for veterans that are in distress.”
The Senior Center staff made sure McFall had a meal every day.
“After a while, he started smiling,” Brady said. “He’s a very cheerful fellow. He’s different from the day I met him to what you see today. He’s just completely different. Before he was hanging his head down and was very humble, and now he’s perked up a little bit so that part was important also.”
McFall said many Marine wives came out to help him.
“Everything has really changed for me,” he said. “The people have really come together to help me. They really have. All of them show that they care.”
Brady said that the effort says a lot about the people of Havelock.
“It says a lot about this town to come together in the time of need of one person who is in distress,” Brady said. “We will not leave a veteran on the streets. We’re going to make sure that he has the tools and the benefits that he’s entitled to, and if he doesn’t, then we’ll put in the paperwork for him to get those benefits.
“Everybody just came together and just saw the need. They came together as a group and as a neighborhood. It says a lot for what kind of city this is. I know it would have never happened where I grew up. We had one goal in mind, make this person whole again.”
McFall had a hard time finding words to express his appreciation.
“I can’t really express the thanks that I have for them, the way that they have helped me and the stuff that they have donated,” he said. “They gave their time to get everything that I needed … a place to live. I can’t really explain the thanks that I have for them.”