GREENBACK, Tenn. (WVLT)- There are more than 900 veterans living on the streets in Tennessee, many of them disabled and nowhere to go.
One man in Greenback who was not able to serve wants to help as many veterans as he can as a way to say thank you for all they’ve done.
“Kent Bilbrey was my guitar player and he played for Dolly (Parton) and he was an Air Force veteran and a proud veteran,” said Willie Franklin.
“He sent me a text and told me he was going to take a nap and he’d be on. He laid down and he died alone,” said Franklin. That pain of losing a close friend is something he lives with every day.
“He wasn’t homeless, but he didn’t get what he deserved for all the service he’s put in,” said Franklin.
“I prayed about it and I got a slap in the face that I should be doing something.”
So using the money he makes from his music and the help of the East Tennessee community Franklin is building homes. Tiny homes.
“We want to give these to Veterans who are disabled and homeless a place to live and they will have these homes for as long as they live,’ he said.
The homes will go on Franklin’s 8 acre farm in Loudon County. With the help of the community he thinks he can get 12 done this year.
“We are going to do as much on this property as we can to help but our goal is to build a small community of 20 to 25 homes with a community center” he said.
Each home will be built by Franklin and volunteers from all over Tennessee. They’ll be about the size of a one car garage.
“I never got a chance to serve but I’ve gotten to serve by playing a lot of shows to benefit veterans.”
So far, several tons of lumber have been donated anonymously as well as services for the roofs and plumbing.
“I feel like it’s the right thing to do.”
Each one designed with gratitude and dedication, and a way for Franklin to honor his friend and create a home for heroes.
“There are so many veterans out there on the streets alone I’m going to try and do my part to get them home.”
Franklin has also started a magazine that features different veterans each month. He’s hoping to raise money through that as well as his music. He wants to build 12 homes this year.
If you’d like to help you can contact Mr.Franklin at firstname.lastname@example.org.