Family Stories

Veteran Repair Program – Jim & Deanna – Orange County

Through the Habitat Hand-Up Home Repair program, Habitat for Humanity Orange County was able to help U.S. Army veteran Jim Torres and his wife with necessary repairs to their home. 

 “You will see vets who are embarrassed about where they are living,” says Jim, who works with disabled veterans. “Habitat comes in and takes them from their chin on their chest to their head held high. The first time I saw that I said, ‘I’ve got to keep sending people there.’”

Today, Jim, a disabled veteran himself, is the one with his head held high. This past summer, he partnered with Habitat Orange County to make improvements to his home in Santa Ana in Southern California. The house, which sits on a corner lot, has new flooring and siding, a fresh coat of paint and sodding that has changed the yard from brown to green. “The neighbors keep coming by, saying they can’t believe the transformation,” Jim says, “and that puts the pride in me.”

The completed home

Jim was 20 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam. He fought in the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam and on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia, earning two Bronze Stars, the Army Commendation Medal and the Cross of Gallantry with Palm, given by the former country of South Vietnam for valor and heroism. Certificates of recognition from President Richard Nixon and General William Westmoreland hang in Jim’s hallway.

After coming home from the war, Jim spent three decades overseeing the maintenance of 10 stations of the Santa Ana Fire Department, doing everything from making sure the fire alarm system sounded to building furniture for the station houses. Now in his 70s, he has neuropathy in his feet caused by his war days. “It has slowed me down, but it has not stopped me,” he says.

At Jim’s house, there’s new insulation in the attic and a privacy fence. A laminate floor has replaced carpeting that had worn down to the padding. Volunteers from KILZ paints took brushes to the exterior of the house, making it a rich dark brown and volunteers from The Home Depot landscaped the yard, putt in sod and planted bushes and trees. 

Jim says his dignity has been restored and so has that of his wife, Deanna. “She was so embarrassed, not only about how the house looked on the outside, but also how it looked on the inside. She would not have anyone over,” Jim says. “And now, everything looks just beautiful.”