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Giving back to move forward: Woman helps veteran rebuild life after house fire

Corsicana Daily Sun - 12/21/2018

Dec. 21--As they say, home is where the heart is. Some memories within the walls of a home are among the most treasured and heartwarming. But, what if all that was taken away in an instant?

For Glenn Cooper, a 65-year-old veteran, this happened in the first week of December. Cooper is a Eureka resident whose house burned to the ground during an accidental fire caused by a heating unit.

The story began with Jackie Gass, a member of Eureka Baptist Church, hearing about Cooper's story during a sermon.

"The minute I heard about the fire, I leaned over to husband and told him we had to help this man," she said.

Not only did her thoughts and prayers go out to Cooper, but her heart as well.

"We have family who have served in the Navy and passed away," Gass said. "I was raised by my grandpa with nine other kids and our home, much like Mr. Cooper's, burned to the ground. We slept on a pallet on the floor and had to start over, so I know how he must feel as he goes through his grieving process."

Not even knowing Cooper, Gass was able to find out more information from his brother, Neil Cooper, who had been paying for Glenn to stay at The Hampton Inn for the weekend following the incident. However, Glenn was not on board with accepting help at first.

"I called him multiple times and then finally I said that was it," Gass said. "I told him to get up and get dressed because we were going to get his life back together."

That same day from noon to 5 p.m., the duo were able to visit the Social Security office, the DPS, get Glenns truck insurance, visit a locksmith for the truck keys, go to the hospital for his medical records and retrieved his military records. The day ended with a meal at Bush's chicken.

After seeing the devastation of the home, Gass knew she would need back-up for her restoration so she started at the place she knew would be able to help.

"I just called Roy Harrison, who told me that Vernon Strebeck would be able to get in touch with all of the veterans and get a team together," she said. "I was shocked at the turn out. All of these men, some disabled from their time in the service, were out here helping and coming together like a true and honorable brotherhood would. It was heartwarming to say the least."

The love and support for Glenn poured out from family and fellow veterans on Saturday, Dec. 15, just one week after the fire. Francis Cooper, wife to Neil, brought food for the crew along with help from the American Red Cross and corn bread provided by Tammy Kittrel to go with a nice hot dinner.

"When I came in to find Glenn, he was asleep in his burnt up truck," Neil said. "I put him up in a hotel but from there I had no idea what the next step was. Jackie has been a God-send and a huge help on this entire process and we are so grateful to her for it."

Some of the volunteers included: Ben McMahone, president of R&R Projects, John R. Robinson, Time Easley who helped with finding Glenn a wheelchair, Ross Cooper, Bryan Adkisson and many more.

Four loads of scrap metal were collected and the money received will go towards the city dump and gas for travel to and from the building site for Glenn's home.

The current plan for Glenn's new home is for it to be a low-payment mobile home, which they are hoping to find at a veterans discounted price. A water line and electricity will also need to be installed along with a front deck and wheel chair ramp for easy access into the home for Glenn.

Currently, the area where the home once stood has been cleared and is ready for a bulldozer to finish the job.

After all of her help, Gass only wants one thing in return.

"Glenn asked how he could ever repay me," she said. "I told him when this is all said and done, he can buy me a cup of coffee and we'll call it even."

For more information about Glenn, to volunteer, or where to donate to his home restoration contact Jackie Gass at 903-879-0094.


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