An East Texas veteran is taking on a big project - and he's asking for the community's help.
Gary Waldrep of Sulphur Springs has set up a nonprofit agency, The Center of Hopkins County, to provide a shelter he hopes will serve veterans and the homeless of Hopkins County.
"We need a shelter in this town. We need it in North East Texas," Waldrep said. "Right now we're sending all our homeless people to other towns."
He has big plans.
"I bought this old nursing home November first. We're turning it into a veteran's outreach center - a 90-day stability phase for veterans coming back from war and any transients and veterans that's homeless, we're going to give them 72 hours and actually use some of them to help us support the veterans that's coming back from overseas," said Waldrep.
But he also has a big problem - right now, the building doesn't meet the city's permit code.
"As I did the research I found out that there was a flooding issue on there and I informed him of that and told him that would have to be investigated by a civil engineer to show how it could be corrected," said Sulphur Springs's City Building Official Mark Hardin.
Hardin has asked Waldrep to have a licensed engineer and architect look at the building and provide new plans that show it meets the city's codes - something Waldrep says could cost $20,000 to $30,000.
"The flooding issue, the city's problems, we can deal with them," he said. "There's a big tree back there that's ruptured an old city drain, and the city drain really needs to be cleaned out, but if they make us hire an engineer to reroute the water and the flooding issue, we will. We'll do whatever it takes to comply with the city."
Waldrep says he has an engineer already working on the building code. He plans to use inmates and volunteers to do repair work and has five rooms already set up, thanks to community donations. It's a project he's trying to finish quickly because he knows first-hand how important it is.
"I was homeless. I still am homeless, I'm living in a shack right now that's colder - I almost died last December," he said. "And I've been to some of them homeless shelters in Dallas. I don't want to die 200 miles away from home, you know? I know how it is being a veteran way up there in one of those shelters away from your loved ones."
The Center of Hopkins County provided us documents today from the Hopkins County Tax Office showing that more than $70,000 of back taxes are owed on the property they have purchased.
Waldrep told us today that if they were not paid by January 1, the property could be taken from them and auctioned, but we were not able to confirm that with city or county officials.
If you would like to donate to The Center of Hopkins County, you can contact Gary Waldrep at 903-348-2730, Sheila Krecek at 903-348-5492, or mail donations to P.O. Box 228, Sulphur Springs, Texas, 75482.
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