Home Depot crew helps Army wife finish projects her husband couldn't
Detroit Free Press
WHITE LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A group of volunteers from Home Depot are set to paint, saw and hammer at a White Lake Township home today to finish the work an Army officer couldn't before he was shipped off to Afghanistan.
Since 1st Lt. Joseph Prapotnik, 42, left in the spring, his wife, Melanie Prapotnik, and her 13-year-old daughter have lived with a shell of a bathroom, sliding doors that didn't lock and other issues with the foreclosed home they bought prior to his deployment. A week after he ripped out the main bathroom, he got the call to duty.
To help, 25 volunteers from the Farmington Hills Home Depot worked Wednesday and planned to get back at it today to install tile, a new tub and a bathroom cabinet, rebuild stairs and patio railings, replace three sliding doors with alarms on each and finish other odd jobs at the Prapotniks' home on Grass Lake Road.
"I've been stopping myself from crying all the time," Prapotnik, 40, said Wednesday, near two workers buttering thinset on walls for a new limestone and glass tile backsplash. She particularly praised store manager Dennis Sanders. "He's taking care of me like my husband would. Really, what he's giving us is more than just things — it's peace of mind."
The effort is part of Home Depot's 2012 Celebration of Service to help those in the military and their families. Between Sept. 11 and Veterans Day on Nov. 11, the company expects to participate in more than 300 projects nationwide that focus on veteran housing.
As Prapotnik drove her husband, a flight instructor at the Oakland County airport, to Kalamazoo to deploy to Afghanistan with the Michigan National Guard, he frantically tried to give her tips to finish the jobs he'd started or intended to do.
A trained paralegal who's now a Central Michigan University junior studying psychology, Prapotnik felt totally overwhelmed.
"He's giving me this 'honey-do' list and I'm like, 'Oh my God,' " said Prapotnik. "I was left with a temporary sink, (only) a toilet upstairs and a 'Good luck.' "
So when she received an e-mail in August about Home Depot's willingness to help veterans, she wrote a letter about her situation. The call came within days from the Farmington Hills Home Depot, brought in because the White Lake store was already committed to another big job. In total, Sanders said Home Depot donated about $5,000 in supplies plus the volunteer labor to the job.
Lt. Joseph Prapotnik flew a U.S. flag in Afghanistan for nine minutes and 11 seconds on Sept. 11, which he's sending back to the Farmington Hills Home Depot.
"We don't expect anything in return," the Farmington Hills store manager said. "This is part of Home Depot's culture. But for her and her husband to do that, it's amazing."
On Wednesday, Keyata Houston, 36, of Detroit, a 13-year Home Depot employee, was on the roof of the Prapotniks' split-level, snapping white gutter guards in the gutters so Prapotnik doesn't have to worry about leaf clogs this fall.
"I just love to help out," said Houston, who has worked in every Home Depot department except plumbing. "I love to give back. I like to help people and see them happy and smiling."
Sanders said anyone who would like to help on a similar project can contact their local Home Depot's customer service desk or manager.
"We'll take any and all volunteers, definitely," he said.