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This past week I was fortunate enough to witness a lot of good people doing a lot of good things. This outpouring of compassion reminded me that the immense goodness that binds and defines our community and country is alive and well.

Last Tuesday, a throng of volunteers gathered at the home of Bob Van Tassel. For over 40 years Bob has been helping local veterans. A former Commander of the Boone County Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Bob has always given generously of his time and energy to ensure his brothers in arms were not forgotten. Now it was his turn.

When Eric Luneau, owner of Cedar Ridge Builders, heard that Bob needed help, he and his crew didn’t hesitate to volunteer. These 10 skilled carpenters went to work building a handicap ramp, replacing a rotting porch and making other much need repairs to make Bob’s home safer and more functional. Some Home Depot employees, including Jodie Luneau, Eric’s wife, also volunteered their time and the DAV provided all the building materials and lunch. The only payment anyone received was the joy of giving.

This was the fourth project on a disabled veteran’s home the DAV has completed in the past month. The DAV also recently helped a couple veterans down on their luck with rent and paid another’s electric bill, bought winter coats and a bed for three children of an Iraq veteran, provided wheelchairs for a couple more veterans and worked with the American Legion to help a homeless veteran find shelter. Good people doing good things.

None of this would be possible without the support of the community. As part of the DAV’s “Forget Me Not” fundraiser last week, I was awed by the generosity of our community. Many of the donors were veterans themselves or had relatives who served. heir stories were inspiring and too often sad, but all gave what they could. Kelly Miller, with the support of Jeana Rudd and Cornerstone Bank, went trick or treating to raise funds for the DAV. They must have had really good costumes as they raised $760 which will help a lot of local veterans and their families.

Then there was 89-year-old DAV member and decorated Korea War veteran Howard McCarville, who didn’t hesitate to stand out in the bitter cold collecting money for to help his fellow veterans. Howard, and his dog, Tas, charmed everyone who passed with great stories, humor and, if they were lucky, a tune from his harmonica — usually the Marine Corps hymn.

Watching these good people do good things reminded me of the grand old tradition of barn raising, when the community would come together to help a neighbor in need. It’s heartening to know this selfless spirit is not lost.

The DAV needs contractors, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and business who can provide building materials help them improve the quality of life for these men and women who proudly served our country and protected out freedoms. One hundred percent of all labor, materials and money raised goes directly to assist local veterans. If you are willing to help, call me at (417) 231-2441.

Matt Russell is a USMC Vietnam combat veteran and Commander of the Boone County DAV. The opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not represent the position of this newspaper, the Disabled American Veterans or any other organization.

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