Just in time for Christmas, a homeless veteran in Kenosha now has a place to call his own, thanks to the generosity of a local family and the support of the Kenosha County Division of Veterans Services.
Still mourning the recent loss of his mother, Geraldine Krueger, Rick Parker was in the process of trying to sell her home in a local mobile home community when he had a thought while lying in bed one night: Why not give it to a homeless veteran?
Parker discussed this with his sister, Wendy Parker, and his aunt, Tracy Marth, who connected him with the Kenosha County Veterans Service Office. Staff there vetted several candidates for this unusual offer before identifying Michael Connell, a 63-year-old Marine Corps veteran who had been spending his nights in the shelter at the Shalom Center.
“He was the perfect candidate,” said Kenosha County Veterans Services Director Ali Nelson, noting the many years of distinguished service that proceeded a recent rough patch in Connell’s life.
Connell, Nelson said, was honorably discharged after more than 18 years in the Marines, having reached the rank of Gunnery Sergeant. But because his service time fell just short of the 20-year mark, Connell is not eligible for a military retirement pension, Nelson noted.
Nelson said the screening process included a background check and a review of Connell’s finances to ensure that he will be able to pay his utilities and the monthly lot fee at the mobile home park.
On Thursday, Connell moved into his new home, which remained outfitted with Parker’s mother’s furniture, cookware and other household necessities.
“God must love me and love them,” Connell said, of the Parkers. “They’ve been readily available to answer all of my questions. It’s a beautiful thing that happened.”
While the mobile home is being placed in Connell’s name, Parker said it is his hope that it will be transferred to another homeless veteran when Connell no longer needs it.
Parker said is happy to have made the contribution.
“It made me feel real good, especially after meeting Mike,” Parker said.
Nelson said donations like that of Parker’s family are not regular occurrences in his office, but that they do come about “once in a while.” When they do, Nelson said the Veterans Service Office is pleased to match the contribution with veterans in need.
“My duty is to help him,” Nelson said, of Connell. “His blessing has come right at Christmastime, and I couldn’t be happier to help put a roof over his head.”
Would-be donors or veterans needing assistance may visit the Veterans Service Office in the Kenosha County Job Center, 8600 Sheridan Road, or call 262-605-6690. More information about the office and the services it provides is also online at http://www.kenoshacounty.org/368/Veterans, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kenoshacountyveterans/.