Life can bring unexpected challenges, Karolee Buzelle, 75, explained Saturday, choking up as a team of HomeFront volunteers tackled a range of repairs inside and outside her Milford home.
Her husband, Robert Buzelle, 77, used to do all the home maintenance, and she handled the cooking. But in 2016, Robert was severely injured when he fell down a flight of stairs in the house, and since then he hasn’t been able to walk.
Karolee had to take over the tasks he used to handle, like the finances, but she couldn’t manage the household maintenance and repairs.
“This is all major stuff,” Karolee said, pointing toward the volunteers outside, who were patching an area of roof that leaked, repainting the house, replacing rotted and broken railings on an outdoor porch, taming some very overgrown landscaping and more.
Inside the house, volunteers were replacing a broken shower faucet.
The Welchs Point Road home in Milford was one of 40 across the state and Westchester County, New York, that were being repaired Saturday at no cost to the homeowners.
“The 32nd annual HomeFront Day is a massive step in this year’s campaign to make life-changing repairs to the homes of 60 older adults on fixed incomes, single-parent households, persons with disabilities and families in transitional crisis due to illness or job loss,” said Sean C. O'Brien, executive director of HomeFront, Inc.
He said more than 2,000 volunteers from 50 faith groups, civic organizations and corporations took part in HomeFront Day May 4.
The Home Depot Foundation contributed funds for some of the projects, if they benefited the homes of veteran’s. Beneficiaries included Korean War and Vietnam War veterans as well as those engaged more recently in the Middle East.
Robert Buzelle served in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1966, so The Home Depot Foundation contributed to his home repairs.
It was during Robert’s years in the service that he met Karolee.
He was home, and had gone to Paul’s Famous Hamburgers, which was what that generation of young Milford adults did for entertainment.
“The thing to do was to go to Paul's for a soda or something to eat, and then you’d hop from car to car, blabbing with your friends, and then maybe take a ride to Savin Rock,” Karolee said.
That’s where the two met.
“He just kept chasing me and chasing me,” Karolee said with a laugh. “He kept saying, ‘I won’t come home [from the service] unless you’re here waiting for me’.”
Now, 55 years later, the love hasn’t waned. “I knew she was the girl for me,” Robert said. “And I still love her as much today.”
Karolee has been determined to keep her husband at home. An aide comes and helps out during the week. It’s hard, but she said, “This is his home.”
She saw an ad for the HomeFront project in the local newspaper and applied. When she found out she had been approved for free home repairs, she was overwhelmed.
“Holy cow,” she said. “I’ve been bawling my eyes out.”
This is the 24th year that St. Gabriel Church and St. Ann Church in Milford have taken part in HomeFront projects, and the second year they have worked together under the merged St. Raphael Parish.
John Marmolejo, captain of the Milford project, estimated the work done Saturday at the Milford home at about $20,000, between material and labor.
“I think it’s good to give back to society,” Marmolejo, a contractor, said. “Pro bono, I think that’s a very good thing. Good for a business to do that at no financial benefit to themselves but just to help others.”
Since 1988, HomeFront volunteers have repaired 3,100 homes, according to a HomeFront press release.