Ted Steiner’s gray mustache stretches across his 95-year-old face as the former military weatherman from Ohio laughs at a Southern snow-lover excited about a wintry forecast.
He’ll turn 96 on Jan. 31, about 71 years after serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, but his advanced age hasn’t obscured his sharp wit.
Increasingly, though, it is interfering in his ability to walk around his home in Taylors.
That’s why the Golden Corner Chapter of Purple Heart Homes got involved. Volunteers with the military-veteran assistance organization beat a brief snow-shower Wednesday afternoon to put the finishing touches on a new ramp from Steiner’s back door to his front yard.
The construction, made possible through a donation by the Home Depot Foundation, makes his home wheelchair-accessible.
Thus it makes life easier for him and his wife, Beverly, who share their blended home with one of their 11 children and a grandchild.
“This is awesome,” said Beverly, 79. “These guys are awesome. I love them all. They’ve been wonderful, polite, generous and thoughtful.”
A suggestion by part-time caregiver Dwight Heidenreich, who also works at Home Depot, turned the Steiners on to the Purple Heart Homes program. Veterans with household needs for safety or accessibility can apply for assistance, and volunteers make needed repairs and renovations.
The Home Depot on North Pleasantburg Drive in Greenville provided materials for the Steiners’ work, and four of the store’s employees volunteered their personal time to aid in the project Wednesday while the ramp’s rails were erected.
“Really it stems from our values – giving back and taking care of our people,” said store manager Patrick Bryant. “What better people to take care of than our veterans who sacrificed so much for us?”
The Home Depot Foundation, which for five years now has mounted a Celebration of Service campaign honoring veterans, will donate up to $1 million for veteran causes for customers who share support for veterans and volunteerism via social media. Posting #ServiceSelfie photographs on Twitter and Instagram, and sharing and liking nonprofit spotlight posts from Team Depot on Facebook, spark $1 pledges. More than $105 million has been donated by the foundation since 2011, according to Home Depot.
Purple Heart Homes, meanwhile, is also working to improve the lives of veterans across the nation.
Founded in 2008 by two Army veterans who were injured in Iraq, the veteran service organization provides housing solutions to all generations of qualified service-connected disabled veterans.
The local Golden Corner Chapter — which is based in Oconee County but has volunteered in Laurens, Simpsonville, Flat Rock, North Carolina, and elsewhere — was established in 2013 by several veterans who retired to the area.
“We run into all situations,” said Larry Druffel, who retired after 20 years in the Air Force. “What’s fun is you work with other veterans from other services.”
During a break in the construction at the Steiners’, Druffel looked to fellow volunteer Warren Hopper, an ex-Marine wearing a Marines baseball cap.
“Weren’t you in the Army?” Druffel asked, drawing a laugh.
The veterans picked up a new volunteer in Daniel Patterson, whose father in Easley benefitted from the chapter’s work last week with new, much-needed handrails in his bathroom.
“I want to make sure I pay it forward,” said Patterson.
“This is good,” said Hopper. “You feel like you’re doing something useful.”
Before they were finished in Taylors, Ted Steiner found their work useful. Even walking, the ramp provided easier transport than the stairs he otherwise faced.
The Akron, Ohio, native spent years as a dairy farmer and an agriculture teacher after his service. He used to hitchhike rides from truck drivers while headed to college classes out of state before transferring to Ohio State, where he graduated.
He did not see much wartime action in the military.
“Most of mine was here in the States rather than overseas somewhere,” Steiner said.
“That makes it a little bit of a handicap for me to just sit down and bull with the guys and come out with anything that’s meaningful for them,” he said.
That didn’t keep him from shooting the bull during work on his project, though.
“What are we going to do with this one?” he asked when his interviewer admitted to wanting snow.
His wife said his new ramp is a helpful gift that bears more meaning because it was given by fellow veterans.
“This is going to be such a big help,” said Beverly. “I’m almost 80, myself. He has to get his blood checked. He has doctor’s appointments and stuff like that. This is going to be a blessing.”
For information and to get involved in Purple Heart Homes, visit phhusa.org. To volunteer and donate to the local chapter of the organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org.