A 94-year-old World War II veteran and former prisoner of war is giving back to veterans in a big way. The organization he created is giving free toolboxes to veterans. Each toolbox is filled with up to $500 worth of quality hand tools.
Resources Exchange Association (REA) is a veteran-managed nonprofit organization founded in 1984. In 1994, C.R. "Bud" Shepherd, a veteran of World War II who also spent time in a Nazi POW camp, began operating a small warehouse in Burlington, North Carolina, to assist other nonprofit organizations with their missions to help the ill, needy and infants in the local community.
In 2012, Shepherd decided to focus his attention on the condition of wounded veterans returning home from war. It was at this time that the REAch Wounded Veteran Program was created.
From its headquarters in Graham, North Carolina, REAch ships fully loaded toolboxes to post-9/11 combat wounded veterans across the country. The toolboxes and shipping are free to the vets.
The organization has shipped more than 8,000 toolboxes since the program began. Currently, due to tremendous demand, it is giving priority to Purple Heart recipients, but the group is actively seeking donations and has a goal of shipping a free toolbox to every qualified veteran.
"I go to the VA hospital in Durham, North Carolina, for yearly physicals, but my health is excellent. These people down there that I deal with at the VA hospital, they are just good people. In my lifetime, I've been blessed, and I enjoy every minute of it," Shepherd said.
"We hear from a lot of these guys and their families," he said. "Last week, we got an email saying, 'You saved my husband's life. He hasn't been out of the house in three months but, ever since he got his toolbox, he's been out in the garage or the back yard working on something.'"
The only thing asked in return is for each wounded veteran who gets a toolbox to submit a picture of themselves with their donated toolbox for placement in the organization's "Heroes Hall" on its website.
Shepherd, who gets up at 5 a.m. and works until 6 p.m. six days a week, says, "This is the most satisfying thing I've ever done in my lifetime."