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Posted November 13, 2017 | 7:56 AM

Operation Code Vet: Serving Those Who Served

County leads effort to spruce up houses, yards of needy Veterans

Until recently, James Palmer did plenty of heavy lifting, working around his house and even getting his elderly mother's property in shape to sell.

Then a kidney condition sapped his energy. Since going on dialysis two years ago, the retired accountant/manager and Vietnam War-era Army private avoids strenuous activity such as trimming trees, repairing his fence, or hauling away junk. Meanwhile, a fixed income limits his ability to hire workers to maintain his house and yard.

Due to those health and financial challenges, James' property in northwest Hillsborough County deteriorated.

Hillsborough County Code Enforcement officers told James about Operation Code Vet, a new County program that helps Veterans with physical or financial hardships bring their properties into compliance with local regulations. James seized the opportunity. "It was a solution to a lot of my problems," he says.

James Palmer, a Vietnam War-era Army private, monitors the clean-up of his property by Operation Code Vet.
James Palmer, a Vietnam War-era Army private, monitors the clean-up of his property by Operation Code Vet.

Led by Code Enforcement, Operation Code Vet is a partnership of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses that provide volunteers, equipment, and financing to fix houses and yards with problems that otherwise could lead to citations and fines.

The reasoning: Veterans made great sacrifices for their nation. So, when their properties are in disrepair and they lack capacity to address the problems, Operation Code Vet can help.

It's seldom a one-time fix. Some veterans' properties need substantial work, such as a new roof or swimming pool repairs, in addition to yard work and trash removal. And Code Enforcement wants to ensure the properties remain in good shape, so follow-up is necessary.

In May, Operation Code Vet coordinated repairs to its first two houses, including the one belonging to James and his wife, Linda. It is planning workdays at homes of two more veterans. Ultimately, the program will take on about one home-site a month.

On Veterans Day, Saturday, Nov. 11, Code Enforcement volunteers and others will clean up the Brandon property of an Air Force veteran from the Vietnam era.

Code Enforcement is aware of at least a dozen properties owned by Veterans that need considerable work. Each is addressed as resources become available. For example, if a house needs a roof and a roofer is ready to help, that house moves up the priority list.

Code Enforcement has a similar program to help seniors who are not Veterans but have difficulty keeping their properties in acceptable condition.

The effort to help Veterans seems to draw the most interest. People respect and appreciate Veterans, and benefits sometimes are available to help. Operation Code Vet looks into that possibility as part of its assessment of a property.

Photo information: Volunteers help with the clean-up of James Palmer's property during Operation Code Vet.