Ella McFarland, her son, Waleed McFarland, along with Johnson & Johnson volunteers smiling in front of Ella’s home.

A group of volunteers from Johnson & Johnson gave a helping hand by dedicating their time to construct a new fence for Riverview resident Ella McFarland, who is a widow of a Navy veteran, Curtis McFarland. The McFarlands were married for 59 years. He passed away in 2016. Due to Ella’s limited income and general poor health, she found maintaining her modest home difficult.

The efforts of this project were part of last month’s Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough Florida, Inc.’s Veterans Initiative Week of Service, which occurs annually during the week leading up to Veterans Day. This would be the fourth year of it. In addition, The Home Depot Foundation and Bank of America sponsored the seven days of service for these veteran initiative projects.

Nitza Rivera, Veterans Build and neighborhood revitalization program manager at Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough Florida, Inc., mentioned what the goal of the Veterans Build Week of Service is.

“The goal of Veterans Build Week of Service is to raise awareness about the need for affordable homeownership opportunities and the need for assistance with repairs and accessibility modifications for low to median-income veteran families,” Rivera said.

Ella shared how she will benefit from her new fence.

“With my new fence, I will no longer need to be concerned about animals coming in my backyard,” Ella said.

Ella retired from driving a school bus for more than 21 years. She remains active and works part time for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department as a crosswalk guard at Warren Hope Dawson Elementary School.

“Overall, I am so grateful to the volunteers and Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough Florida, Inc. for assisting not only me but also other military families as well,” Ella said.

Being able to give back to veterans holds a special place in Rivera’s heart because she is a veteran herself who served in the Army for 23 years. Volunteers will also be needed for the upcoming Veterans Build, which is slated to kick off in January 2022.

For more information, visit https://www.habitathillsborough.org.

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Tatiana Ortiz
Tatiana Ortiz is a freelance writer with the Osprey Observer Newspaper. She began as an intern here in 2010 and has been writing since. Tatiana graduated from the University of South Florida in 2015. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. In her free time, Tatiana enjoys photography, biking and being with her family.