Disabled homeless veterans clean World War II memorial with toothbrushes

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - During a recent trip to downtown Evansville, Kenny Perry, wheeled past the Vanderburgh County World War II monument to pay his respects to the uncle for whom he was named and who lost his life in the war.

As Perry read the bronze letters spelling out his uncle Kenneth Perry's name he noticed how dirty the memorial had become after years of weathering.

That is when Perry had an idea.

He shared it with other residents in the ECHO Housing Corp.'s Lucas Place II, which provides permanent housing for disabled homeless veterans, and a group of eight veterans turned Perry's idea into a plan.

The residents of Lucas Place II who have taken a lot of pride in their new home, developed a resident council, to take responsibility for their own community as well as help the surrounding neighborhood.

"We (the members of the resident council and other residents) had been wanting to start a project to help out our community," said James Granger, president of the council.

Perry proposed they ask the city if they could take responsibility for cleaning the monument several times a year, and the resident council agreed it was a project they wanted to take on.

The Department of Parks and Recreation, which is responsible for the upkeep of the monument, was thrilled with the volunteers' idea.

Armed with toothbrushes, toothpaste and dish detergent, all purchased by the Lucas Place residents, the eight volunteers began scrubbing away at the limestone and bronze on Wednesday morning.

The Parks department provided the water to the team, but the veterans provided the elbow grease needed to spruce up memorial that sits outside the Old Courthouse.

The project not only means a lot to the veterans but also to Denise Johnson, executive director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. "We have only 12 full-time employees to take care of 63 properties and 2,300 acres throughout the city and county. Not a day goes by that isn't a full list of responsibilities, so anytime we can get help from volunteers we greatly appreciate it," Johnson said.

"It is a huge help, we are happy to have residents who take pride in their community help make city property look better," Johnson said.

Perry comes from a family that for generations has taken pride in serving the country. For Perry and the other veterans this is a small gesture of thanks not only to the veterans who came before them, but to the community.

"I believe in serving my country and serving my community, " Perry said. "Everyone in the community has been so good to us, helping to support Lucas Place II before and after we moved in, we wanted to do something good for them."

The Lucas Place II veterans have plans to clean the monument again in November before winter weather and will start again next year in April and continue cleaning it four times a year.


(Reach Evansville Courier & Press staff writer Erin McCracken at mccracken@courierpress.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.) 

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