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When Rev. David W. Good delivered a sermon about the importance of honoring veterans to his congregation last November, he never thought his words would lead to the purchase of a house that seven homeless veterans will soon call home.
But members of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, who for 37 years were led by longtime senior minister Good, have now made it possible.
"When someone has done something that magnificent there aren't enough words to be able to say thank you. It doesn't feel powerful enough," project leader and church member Mary Charlton said of Good. "So we thought, 'What if we started a home for homeless veterans?' It should be important to everybody in this country, and we thought this could be something that could hopefully go on and on and on, and it's a powerful statement of how much we care about David and the veterans."
As a parting gift on behalf of the congregation, church members searched for the perfect home, found it in New London and pooled together half the cost of the $149,000 house.
"They wanted to do it as a surprise for me, but in a small town it's hard to keep something like this a secret," Good said Sunday. "I ended up having to find out about it since they wanted to make sure I was comfortable with it. I deeply appreciate the initiative of the congregation."
Good delivered his last sermon to the 900-member congregation on June 10 and is now retired.
The three-story home on Steward Avenue will be named the Major Edward A. Good Veterans' Home in honor of Good's father, a World War II and Korean War veteran. The house is split into two fully-furnished apartments with three bedrooms in each unit. A loft on the third floor has been turned into a smaller unit in which a seventh person will live. Selected veterans are expected to start moving in shortly.
The remaining purchase price of the home is a mortgage held by the Homeless Hospitality Center of New London, which will manage and own the home. The mortgage payments will be paid by the work and/or disability income from the veterans who live in the home. Those veterans will be allowed to stay for as long as they need to, and Charlton said she hopes the home will serve as the first stop in a successful journey.
"It's mainly transitional housing, a place for the guys to come who don't have a home," she said. "It's a roof over their head and a place of dignity to live and they'll have the help of HHC services. Once they can get on their feet and are able to support themselves, they can move out into their own place.
"They know that people care about them and they know that we are very grateful to them for serving this country and protecting us. For me that's very important. I want them to know that people care and they're not forgotten."