Habitat for Humanity, volunteers spruce up 10 homes in Boca’s New Pines neighborhood for Veterans Build  

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Staff report

Ten homes in Boca’s New Pines neighborhood were transformed in time for Veterans Day thanks to Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County and its Neighborhood Revitalization program powered by Vertical Bridge Holdings.

Part of the 2019 Veterans Build, 250 corporate team members from various sponsoring companies including Wells Fargo, Boca Grove Country Club, Fidelity National Title Group, Champion Solutions Group, Baptist Health South Florida, Boca Rio Foundation and the City of Boca Raton spent the Friday before Veterans Day helping spruce up the homes.

The program included a presentation of the colors and recognition of all veterans present at event. The lunch featured keynote speaker U.S. Army Veteran Sophia E. Eccleston, an External Affairs (EA) manager for Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) in Palm Beach County responsible for advocating with local elected officials and key community stakeholders.

Eccleston joined the Army in 1995 and was assigned to the 95th Military Police (MP) Battalion, in Heidelberg, Germany as a Logistics Specialist. She was later transferred to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia where she was assigned to the 224th Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion. There she served the remainder of her time until she was honorably discharged in 1998. Along with her military experience, Eccleston  also worked for Halliburton and KBR Inc., in the Middle East and Africa. Two of her most notable roles were negotiating multimillion dollar contracts to build infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan for the United States military and starting up the first Regional Expediting Department located Dubai.

Following Eccleston’s speech, CEO Alex Gellman of Vertical Bridge, the 2019 Veterans Build Presenting Sponsor, gave a $60,000 check to HFHSPBC as the nonprofit’s overall Annual Neighborhood Revitalization Program Sponsor. In addition, Home Depot’s Regional VP of South Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Santi Bernardez presented the organization with a gift card in the amount of $116,897, representing Home Depot’s total annual support to HFHSPBC’s Neighborhood Revitalization program through materials sponsorship of various projects.

Two of the Boca homeowners are military veterans.

Hubert Barkoski “Skip”: Skip enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1961 and was sent to Okinawa, Japan during the Vietnam War. He served four years in Supplies Artillery.  He met his wife Sherry and has been married for 56 years. Skip and Sherry have given everything to provide for their daughter and four grandchildren leaving little for them to keep up with the repairs on their home. They are both involved in the New Pines Community working along Wayne Barton to help children in the community. Skip and Sherry have several medical conditions and Sherry has taken a job at Steak and Shake just to try to keep up with their medical bills. The children and grandchildren will do whatever it takes to assure they live their final years in a safe and decent home.

Steven Kirkman: Steven Kirkman, son of a WWII veteran, is a Vietnam-Era Veteran who served as a cruiser sailor on USS Columbus CG-12, a guided missile cruiser during the 1960s. He later re-enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, in the logistical field where he volunteered for combat cargo transport support.  He is now 75 and is a survivor of prostate cancer and critical heart issues. Kirkman moved into his house with his parents in 1953; when his parents passed away, he inherited the home. He attends Church regularly and is a 33-year Master Mason at the Boca/Delray Lodge 171 and a 23-year Shriner. He is retired and enjoys fishing.