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Over 500 volunteers work on projects to help veterans in Collier County

Posted at 6:28 PM, May 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-08 18:28:41-04

Over five hundred volunteers gathered in Naples Tuesday to work on some special projects to help local veterans and their families. Home Depot employees from around the country met at Florida Sports Park in Collier County to build picnic tables and playhouses. They also partnered with PAWS Assistance Dogs to build beds for veterans' service dogs.

"PAWS has helped me out a lot," said veteran Reno Anselmi, whose service dog Duke helps him deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome. 

"He's there to recognize that, and help me out so I don't get really bad," Anselmi said.

The volunteers worked with Hearts and Homes for Veterans to build and decorate 25 custom playhouses for veteran families and children with special needs. The playhouses were painted in variety of colors, and included everything from pictures of superheroes and Star Wars characters, to the names of the children who will receive them.  

"Each child is going to have a custom playhouse with all the themes and features that they really love," said Joe Wimberley, senior manager with the Home Depot Foundation. "In four hours, the volunteers took it from nothing to something, fully customized."

After the work was finished, the Home Depot Foundation presented PAWS with a check for $7,500. Then the volunteers gathered on the bleachers at the Florida Sports Park, where they were treated to a Collier County original - a series of swamp buggy races.

"It's just a celebration for all their hard work and energy," Wimberley said. "They've come out here to sweat for many hours to give back to the community."