When Melanie Prapotnik and her family lived in Warren, they lived in fear. Now White Lake residents, they feel more secure, thanks to a group of volunteers from Home Depot.
Joseph, Melanie's husband, is a 14-year veteran of the Air Force and Army. When he's not training, he's a pilot for Oakland International Airport in Waterford and volunteers time with the Honor Guard at military funerals.
"When my husband was gone, I'd sit in the front room with a shotgun at night," Melanie said, explaining they lived in a bad area of south Warren, "where my grandfather had built the house we lived in off Eight Mile."
"My grandma raised her three kids there by herself after my grandfather died at the age of only 40. I moved there and helped my grandmother until she passed away," she explained. "The house meant a lot to me and held many memories, but as with many areas now days, the neighborhood declined, blight took over, drug deals ran rampant and our neighbors burglarized us."
Melanie said the fear she and her 13-year-old daughter felt when her husband was away eventually led them to move.
"We purchased a foreclosed home (in White Lake) that ended up needing major repairs, despite a having an inspection done prior to purchasing it," Melanie said.
Melanie and Joseph were in the process of repairing the home when he got the call from the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan.
"We had just finished painting the house, we were literally painting up until three hours before his deployment," she said. "The bathroom, as you can see, was completely gutted and there were several repairs I just could not do on my own. We have struggled to stay afloat."
Melanie is a paralegal, she said, but has had trouble finding a job since the move. She said she's in school now to finish her degree in psychology.
Home Depot offers help
"We aren't ones to ask for help," Melanie said of herself and her husband. "I was so touched when Home Depot contacted me and offered to help finish the repairs and give us back our bathroom."
Melanie said the project is part of Home Depot's efforts to support those in the military this month. "After seeing our need, Home Depot eagerly agreed to help us start and finish projects my husband was unable to do before he left for deployment."
Dennis Sander, store manager for the Farmington Hills Home Depot that is taking on the project, said he and his group were honored to be able to help the Prapotniks.
"We are all here on our day off to help this wonderful family, it's great to be able to give back to the community and have the support of a great company like Home Depot," Sander said.
Melanie held back tears Wednesday as she explained her husband's reaction when he found out about Home Depot's proposal.
"He couldn't believe it," she said. "I usually only get to talk to him once a month, so I was so grateful to talk to him this week and get to share the news. He kept saying he couldn't believe people were so willing to come out and help us, that he couldn't understand why. I told him it's because he's a hero."
Melanie said Home Depot is going above and beyond her expectations. Sanders and his group of dedicated volunteers worked all day Wednesday and will be working again Thursday to complete a number of projects, including the installation of new patio and back doors, kitchen tile, a new full bathroom, garage door, security alarms and a flag pole with landscaping in the front yard.
Sanders said providing the Prapotniks with a safe home was his biggest priority, "Their back doors didn't have locks, there was no security system and they didn't have a functioning bathroom upstairs," he said. "We are very excited to be doing the work and making them feel at home in their new house."
As a small token of thanks, Joseph and his company in Afghanistan will present Home Depot with a flag that was flown at half staff on Sept. 11 to commemorate the 9/11 attacks, along with a photo of Joseph and his fellow soldiers saluting it.
"I just can't believe it," Melanie said Wednesday, as she watched the volunteers work. "I really can't express enough how grateful my family and I are for all of this."