As a veteran, East County's Jim Sleter paid service to his country, but he never expected any favors because of it.
But due to the kindness and generosity of local businesses, along with the VFW, Sleter and his wife Jackie now have a new roof over their heads.
“It's hard for me to talk about because I'm a receptor of this,” Jim Sleter said. “And it's like, 'Oh, my! Amazing, amazing, amazing.”
The Sleters had been in search of a roof repair for two years, after they discovered some minor roof leaks in their River Isles residence. They put in a claim with their insurance company and it was subsequently denied.
Though the leaks were not serious, Jim and Jackie Sleter were told that no other insurance claims would be honored if they didn't have a new roof.
“A history lesson,” Jackie Sleter said of the insurance company's demand.
Jim Sleter turned to his friends at Braden River Post 12055. He wasn’t looking for a free roof, but was trying to find a fellow vet who did roofing.
VFW member Dave Daily had an idea. In 2015, he had volunteered for the first Roofs for Heroes program when it was started by Brian Wallace, the president of Florida Southern Roofing. He remembered cooking for the volunteers as they built a roof for Ellenton's Harris Nelms.
“Once we’re finished with a roof, we like to ask if there is anything else needed,” said Cindi Bass, the director of business development at Florida Southern Roofing.
Daily told Bass that next time she was fixing a roof for an East County resident, he would be happy to help. When he heard of the Sleters' situation, he was quick to put Bass in touch with them.
“I started with my normal introductory phrase, that I was born in a log cabin on Long Island in 1940,” Jim Sleter said with a laugh.
“He did!” his wife said.
Jim Sleter filled out the application for the program, and a little over a week later, received an email from Bass declaring him the winner, making him the program's third beneficiary. “I think I was working out at the gym. I just started crying,” he said.
The reason for the award goes all the way back to Jim Sleter's youth. Drafted at 19, he became an Army corporal while serving in various states, and becoming a full-time driver of an armored personnel carrier in Fort Worth, Texas. Later, he was stationed in West Berlin in East Germany during the Cold War and was present when it was invaded by Soviet troops in 1968. “That’s the closest I ever came to combat, thank God,” he said.