World War II veteran Johnnie H. Hodges Sr., 90, will be back in his house for Veterans Day, Nov. 11 -- if not sooner.
Donations from across the country for his family to buy back his Humboldt Parkway home have more than doubled the goal of $50,000. As of last Tuesday, more than $107,000 had been collected in the online GoFundMe account established by Williamsville resident Greg Elwood, who felt moved to help Hodges after reading about his plight in The Buffalo News. In fact, in the space of an hour that afternoon, the fund had increased by $2,000.
Hodges had been physically removed from his home July 9 by first responders and authorities after a local bank foreclosed on the house because he had been behind in his mortgage payment for years. He said he had lost track of his finances while caring for his wife, Flora, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died last year.
Flora Hodges' birthday fell on Monday, the day donations went through the roof.
"I don't know if I can put into words how amazing it is that the fund nearly tripled starting on Flora's birthday," Elwood said.
If she were alive, she would be 87.
Hodges said: "The good Lord never lets you down. He's always there for you through thick and thin. The first thing I'm going to do when I get home is walk through the house and make sure everything is in order. After that, hopefully, I'm gonna get my chair and sit on my front porch."
The foreclosed mortgage had been guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and ownership of the 3,200-square-foot residence was reconveyed to the government. HUD officials had the house appraised at $46,000 and gave Hodges' family first rights of refusal to purchase it by Nov. 5.
Robin Hodges, the Navy vet's daughter, said she expects to buy back the house by the end of next week.
"I'm flabbergasted and can hardly speak. The fund has been growing since last week's story in The Buffalo News," said Robin Hodges, adding that it resulted in another national story published Monday by Yahoo Real Estate News, an online publication, which sent donations into overdrive with a flood of generosity.
In addition to the GoFundMe account, Robin Hodges said donations in the form of checks have been pouring in through the mail.
"When I got the mail Monday, there must have been at least 50 letters and all of them had donations," the daughter said.
A single mother, Hodges said she plans to live in the upstairs apartment at the house with her three sons, while her father will return home to the first-floor apartment, where he had lived for more than five decades before being evicted. Since then, he has been living in a senior citizen complex in Cheektowaga.
"I'm moving to the upstairs apartment so that I can be close to my father and take care of him," said Robin Hodges, who currently lives in an Elmwood Village apartment.
The extra money that has been donated, she said, will go to "much needed" exterior and interior repairs of the house. In addition, money will be set aside for property taxes and utilities.
"I don't want my dad to have to worry about anything," the daughter said.
For weeks, the fund had stalled at about $32,000. A promise from an Ohio man to cover the balance needed for the purchase turned out to be a hoax.
As of late last Tuesday, more than 2,000 people had contributed to the GoFundMe account at https://www.gofundme.com/xgpe6pw.
Plans are being made for an official welcome home celebration on Veterans Day.