Groups rebuild Dallas veteran's home after fire

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Al Hearne had been living in his South Dallas home for the past three years despite extensive fire damage.

A Dallas Navy veteran who had been displaced from his home for more than three years moved back in Thursday after a nonprofit organization rebuilt it.

Navy veteran Al Hearne had been living in a fire-damaged house with its roof partially gone because he could not afford repairs. He had allocated most of his money to make sure his mother could stay in assisted living and his daughter and granddaughter could live in an apartment.

“It was home. I didn’t want to give up my home,” Hearne said. “I went through so much trying to get it together. I just didn’t want to give up.”

Thursday morning, Rebuilding Together Greater Dallas and Texas Reconstruction Company presented him with the renovated home, located in the 2600 block of Marder Street in South Dallas, with a ceremony and open house.

The renovation to Hearne’s home was part of the Rebuilding Together’s Homes4Heroes project.

When Rebuilding Together first approached Hearne, he thought he would only get some plywood and sheet rock to install on his own. Hearne admitted he was shocked when the organization told him it would rebuild his home for free.

“That’s when I hit the floor,” Hearne said. “That’s when I was like, ‘It’s one of those Jesus things. It has to be.’”

The suggestion to help Hearne came when Rebuilding Together Executive Director Dennis Luellen was speaking about a previous veteran’s burned-out home his organization helped rebuild. When Luellen said the next home they would rebuild was also a veteran’s home that burned, a man in the crowd said they should help also Hearne. Luellen had not heard of the name before.

“It was completely divine. He just dropped right in our lap,” Luellen said.

Hearne served in the Navy for eight years and has worked at the VA Hospital for 30 years. Rebuilding Together reached him through his work.

“When we met him, we knew right away this is a guy we wanted to help,” Luellen said.

Luellen said Rebuilding Together’s mission is to leave a home in better condition than when it was first built. Hearne’s home is now insulated entirely with foam.

“This man’s electric bill is going to be about $40 a month. Even in the summer,” Luellen said. “It’s the most insulated home I’ve even seen in my life.”