93-Year-Old U.S. Navy Veteran Gets Help From Volunteers

Albert Sturzenegger walks out to see a crew working to build a ramp on his porch. (Marco Santana/Orlando Sentinel) -- Military.com

After gingerly walking out onto the front porch of his St. Cloud home, 93-year-old Albert Sturzenegger stood leaning on his blue walker, amazed.

About a dozen volunteers scurried about, working to build a ramp and take care of some landscaping that will make it easier for the U.S. Navy and World War II veteran to get around.

"Holy moly," he said, drawing laughter from the workers milling about, screwing together the planks that would become a ramp.

The project was the work of the Osceola Council on Aging, along with local veterans and the Home Depot Foundation, which team up regularly on work to assist aging veterans in the area.

Sturzenegger's daughter Donna Clapp said her father has had an especially tough last year. She had to take his car away, so he no longer has the freedom of mobility he once had.

"I have a lot of support from friends," she said. "Still, it's always hard to see your father like that. But life is a big circle. He helped me and now I have to help him."

A grant from the Home Depot Foundation helped volunteers build a 40-foot wheelchair ramp and install smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors on the home.

Jim Jandrew, director of weatherization programs for the Council on Aging, said he hopes Home Depot's involvement inspires other businesses to help veterans where they can.

"They have been neglected for many years," said Jim Jandrew. "This is my way of trying to pay the veterans back."

As one crew worked on putting together wood planks for the ramp, another cleared away weeds next to the home and trimmed the bushes in the front.

The Home Depot Foundation of St. Cloud tries to help out a local veteran at least once a month.

"What we take for granted means a great deal to them," said Carmel Bergstrom, a volunteer for St. Cloud's Team Home Depot. "Sometime the smallest gesture from us is the biggest thing for them."

That's how Sturzenegger appeared to feel about his spruced up porch.

As he sat in his kitchen, slouched over from a sore back he said "comes from age, I guess," Sturzenegger struggled to find words to describe his gratitude for the volunteer group building him the ramp.

He said he looks forward to using the ramp to get out of the house more.

"It's quite a great thing to be able to get out and do things," he said. "To be able to get in and out of the house."

Got a news tip? msantana@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5256; Twitter, @marcosantana

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