Christmas in July

Fort Dodge veteran gets a new roof over her head; May is first FD veteran to benefit from Roof Deployment Project

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
RoJohn’s Home Improvement of Fort Dodge, in partnership with Owens Corning, donated the labor and materials needed to replace veteran Linda May’s nearly 30-year old roof with one that has a lifetime guarantee. Repairs in her home of up to $10,000 will also be covered.

After patching up her house to get her by for three years, Linda May has received a special gift that most take for granted — a roof over her head.

“It’s like Christmas in July,” May said Wednesday, as RoJohn’s Home Improvement of Fort Dodge tore down the old one to put in a new one, thanks to the Owens Corning Roof Deployment Project.

May became the first veteran in the area to receive a new roof Wednesday at her Sixth Avenue North home, thanks to a collaboration between RoJohn’s Home Improvement and Twin Rivers Habitat for Humanity under the project.

May told the Messenger that the 1920 home was the old Lanyon one-room school house before her family moved in.

Owens Corning provided the materials, RoJohn’s provided the labor and Habitat for Humanity identified a deserving vet in need to make the project happen. A project like this would cost a homeowner about $8,000.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Navy veteran Linda May, a photographer at heart and former owner of Bergman’s photo studio and camera shop in Fort Dodge, shows The Messenger the inside of her home. Photos like this one of her parents, one of the first ones she took as a child, adorn various shelves.

The initiative also includes up to $10,000 worth of repairs inside May’s home from the Heart of Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund to fix any city code or safety issues.

“When she filled out the application to me, she really stood out,” said Paige Wheeler, an administrative tech worker for the City of Fort Dodge. “I have a lot of admiration for her because of what she’s done and what she’s gone through. She’s the first person that popped out in my mind of 50 people.”

A photographer at heart, May owned Bergman’s Photos with her photographer husband from 1970 to 1982. She ran the business alone after their divorce from 1975 until its close.

“You see the beauty,” of the world through photography, she told the Messenger as she glanced at the various photographs surrounding her home. “You see things from a different perspective.”

It was through photography as a little girl that the now 72-year-old was able to frame life on her own terms in an abusive household which the State of Illinois removed her from at age 14.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
RoJohn’s Home Improvement of Fort Dodge, in partnership with Owens Corning, donated the labor and materials needed to replace veteran Linda May’s nearly 30-year old roof with one that has a lifetime guarantee. Repairs in her home of up to $10,000 will also be covered.

Now, in her own home, the group that made the new roof happen hopes to do the same for at least one or two veterans per year in Fort Dodge.

May was the first to apply for the program, which serves low- to moderate-income veterans on a first-come, first-served basis.

“This will hopefully be an ongoing thing,” said Wheeler.

“If someone applies for that, and we find out they’re a vet, Owens Corning is going to keep doing this,” said Kim Alstott, Fort Dodge city councilman and Habitat for Humanity board member. Alstott also serves as vice chairman for the Heart of Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund.

“I’m very grateful to you all,” May said to them as they greeted her outside her home with a bang — the one coming from her rooftop.

It was through photography that the veteran was able to see the humanity in an often unkind world. Some of that humanity came to exposure this week, putting a new roof up that will shelter both her and those framed photos.

The roof replacement for the home, completed in about six hours, removed everything from the 28-year-old roof down to the deck and replaced it with a lifetime guarantee roof.

“We’re honored to be involved with such a special project for Ms. May,” said Mike McCarville, manager of RoJohn’s Home Improvement. “We want veterans to know how thankful we are for their service and how much we appreciate all they have sacrificed.”

“Pride gets in the way of putting in an application,” for many veterans, according to Marsha Calmer, interim director of HFH. They encourage veterans in need to apply.

The roof replacements don’t just benefit the homeowner — they benefit the entire neighborhood.

“People were coming in (to the city) and saying they couldn’t get their roof fixed because they had no money,” said Alstott, explaining the trust fund’s mission. “Helping these people saves the city money.”

Simply put, keeping the roof up makes sure houses aren’t ruined, which improves the neighborhood, keeps people in their homes and helps the city retain taxable property value, according to Alstott.

“It’s all working together,” he said.

May served in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1967, stationed in the Great Lakes Center after bootcamp in Maryland.

“They didn’t send women overseas back then,” she said. “We didn’t go into combat or go on ships — it was mostly stateside.”

In the Navy, she worked as a journalist for all branches of the military, updating stacks of files for any type of news involving service members.

There, she met her husband, Paul May, who brought the Illinois native back to Fort Dodge, his hometown, where they had two sons.

“It’s a different life. I never had a nurturing mother,” she said.

“I’m honored. Flattered. Thankful,” said May, for being recognized for her service in this way. “I’ve had a really unusual life, now that I think about it.”

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