No place like … woods? Future veteran pays it forward
Cory Fairchild, center, reads to Kane, left, and Blade, to give their harried parents, Haley and Scott, foreground, some time to bond.
VIERA VOICE Linda Wiggins
Cory Fairchild said he has all that he needs and more, so when the Viera High School student heard of a homeless veteran and her family with young children living in the woods, the future Air Force career vet and current JROTC cadet decided to pitch in. He tracked down the family and began cooking meals for them at their campsite and entertaining the boys age 3 and 9, roping in a friend or family member to help him.
It started with making them a Christmas meal complete with a turkey purchased from Walmart that Cory, 17, somehow managed to cook and smoke over a fire. Since then, it’s been burgers, hot dogs, chicken. Sometimes it’s a pizza brought in if he’s tired from studies, extra-curricular activities and a part-time job.
“They have offered to pay us back for some of the food we bought them, but we refused,” Cory said. “We go on Saturdays and Sundays when we can, play with the kids, or just hang out with them so the parents can have some time to themselves.”
The extended hand of friendship is an inspiration and relief, Haley said. A veteran and later reservist with the U.S. Army, she said she received an honorable discharge just before deploying to the Middle East due to the chronic illness of her youngest boy, Blade, 3. Her husband, Scott, had been the spouse who waited, caring also for Blade’s brother Kane, 9. They moved to Brevard from Ohio two weeks before Thanksgiving in hopes a family member could help them, but it didn’t pan out.
“It’s really hard trying to make this seem like a fun adventure for the children, like a camping trip that never ends, when it’s anything but fun for the adults,” said Haley, who asked that the family’s last name not be used to prevent the children’s peers from possibly singling them out for bullying. Like many other families with young children living in the woods, they are also afraid their children might be taken from them.
“Along comes this young person who wants to help, and …. well,” she said, regaining composure, “it just takes a lot off our shoulders and we don’t feel so alone.”
Haley had just finished her last shift at a restaurant that closed that week. She said she is now looking for another job as a waitress or in hotel housekeeping, “anything, anything at all.” Scott said he is seeking a job in fabrication or construction, or, like Haley, anything, anything at all.
Cory is hoping to raise enough money to purchase a used pop-up camper from Craigslist to get the family up off the ground and to offer more protection from the elements than their tarp-covered tent provides. They have a propane heater for when temperatures dip, but comforts other than that are meager.
Cory, whose father, Scott, is a vet who helps other vets, first joined the family culture of outreach to those less fortunate by helping out at His Place Ministries, which serves the homeless in downtown Melbourne and provides a cold-night shelter. Cory’s mother, Sally, champions many community causes.
“Once I saw them, I saw they could use a lot more help than any of them were letting on,” Cory said. “When you see the situation of people who live like this, especially when children are involved, it is impossible to not try to help however you can. It’s not a good life, even though they might make it seem like they are doing great. You can see there isn’t that sense of sanctuary that comes from having their own place,”
He vowed to help the veteran family in the woods as long as they continue to allow him.
“They are not really willing to accept charity, but they’ve been willing to accept our hand up in friendship.”
To join Cory’s effort and make a tax-deductible donation, go to the website for the Brevard-based National Veterans Homeless Support’s Search & Rescue program at nvhs.us, click Donate and under Special Instructions/Memo write “For Haley’s family.” No money will go directly to the family, and the experienced NVHS case management team will provide access to all the available community resources that the family is willing to pursue. VV