ST. PETE — It’s been 40 years since West Point’s first class of women graduated. One of those women is Carol Barkalow, of Pinellas County, who is still making an impact today.
When Barkalow retired from the military in 2002, one mission may have ended, but another was just beginning, and that’s to help her fellow veterans.
“We started buying houses in 2012 with our own money and fixing them up and what we decided to do was to rent bedrooms to homeless or at-risk veterans, veterans in need, veterans who couldn’t afford to live in a place by themselves,” said Barkalow.
With the help of her wife Shiela, who works in real estate, they called this mission, Heaven on Earth.
“If somebody can have a piece of heaven here on earth it should be a veteran whose been in need,” said Barkalow.
The non-profit organization has since renovated nine houses providing more than 200 veterans with a place to live.
“These houses are very personal, these veterans are very personal to me, when they come into the house they are part of our family,” said Barkalow.
Wayne Simpson has been living in a Heaven on Earth home for the past six years. He said if it weren’t for this organization, he’s not sure he’d still be alive.
“I spent years bouncing around from homeless shelter to homeless shelter, and its been a true blessing since then my life has changed 110 percent,” said Simpson, who served in the Navy from 1976-1980.
“Many veterans will kind of use this as a step up, where they will get to save some money and they will go on, and one veteran is even able to buy his own house,” said Barkalow.
For more information go to www.heavenonearth4veterans.org.