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Navy chiefs to the rescue: Making a senior's home safe and livable again

Navy chiefs to the rescue: Making a senior's home safe and livable again

The Navy has arrived. Somewhere behind eight feet of overgrowth is Diane Tompkins' house. She's literally been trapped inside, surrounded by the brush, weeds, the mosquitoes and other creatures that come along with it.

"It was hard. I didn't have nobody to help me," she explained.

The reaction when the Navy got here was universal. Chief Petty Officer Joseph Smith from NAS Pensacola summed it up well, "My first thought was, 'God, we need to fix this.'"

Diane's situation was one that these new Navy chiefs volunteered to conquer. They heard about her plight from the Council on Aging.

When they landed on this job, they were at once saddened and determined.

Chief Rita Quiles could only imagine, "Not knowing who to go to. Elderly, she might not know a lot of people within the community. So, it was kind of heartbreaking seeing that."

It hit Senior Chief Anthony Mitchem the same way, "Honestly, took a breath back because it was a lot, a lot to do. But, we're happy that we're here and doing it."

Tompkins is a proud woman who spent most of her life helping others. After her husband died in 1996, things slowly became overwhelming and her own health began to fail.

"I go to kidney dialysis myself three times a week. I was pretty sick. My doctor forbid me from having a driver's license, but I'm trying to be strong," Tompkins said.

Right now, these chiefs are shouldering part of her burden so she can be strong another day. While it is part of the Navy's culture for them to commit to community service, this is a chosen mission.

Mitchem said, "This is just one example of many homes in the area, so there's always a need for people to reach out and help. And I think it's important to do so. So, knowing that we did our small part today, in the bigger picture, is nice."

Not so small at all really. This is a breathable moment for Diane. This is life changing.

Still, to these men and women, Chief Smith said this is just chiefs doing what chiefs do.

"And everybody's going to leave here with their head held high and proud because we took care of Miss Diane," Smith said.

She's a very happy and grateful senior.

"I appreciate this more than anything, and hugs to everybody," Tompkins said.

Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by Nemours Children's Specialty Care.

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