If a burning hot fire suddenly engulfed your house, how would you recover from the disaster?
That’s the situation that World War II veteran Tom Porter faced last August when the kitchen of his house in Gregory, Michigan went up in flames. After hurrying outside in just a t-shirt and underwear, carrying tubes for his oxygen tank, Porter was left virtually possession-less from the fire that tore through his house. Porter, who served as a radio operator in the Army, didn’t have fire insurance on his home (which sat on a 25-acre farm), and he didn’t know how he was going to come up with enough money to rebuild.
That’s when his neighbors stepped in. The next morning, residents from all over Livingston County, Michigan began to arrive. They salvaged and cleaned what they could from the burned home, then set about rebuilding the property — all without being asked. “There were people working here that I’ve never seen,” Porter told Jim Totten of the Daily Press & Argus.
For five months, the community worked: Repairing Porter’s home, building a new kitchen, and making sure his appliances were code compliant. Many neighbors would stop by after they got off work in the evening to spend some time building, a fact that brings Porter’s daughter to tears when she recalls their efforts. The Home Depot donated some supplies, and when money ran low halfway through the rebuilding process, the Livingston County Department of Veterans Affairs chipped in $10,000.
In January, Porter moved from the trailer where he had been living temporarily into the refurbished home, where he hopes to live out his days, caring for his 20 cows. And yes, he purchased fire insurance.
Tom Porter’s grandson Jason Porter said the community effort rekindled his belief in human kindness, which had wavered. “I totally changed my mind about people,” Jason said. “The community coming together. I cannot express how I feel about the community; it’s beyond words. It was unreal.”
But that outpouring of generosity was real — and Tom Porter has a brand new kitchen to prove it.
MORE: These Veterans Rallied to Save A Fellow Vet from the Cold