Home Depot pays rent for 10 veterans in MUST Ministries housing program

Nov. 11—MARIETTA — This Veterans Day, 10 veterans in MUST Ministries' permanent housing program were told that their December rent had already been paid, thanks to Home Depot.

The payments are part of Home Depot's annual Operation Surprise, which this year is providing rent and mortgage assistance for more than 1,000 veterans across the country.

MUST Ministries is a Cobb-based nonprofit that helps homeless people and people in poverty through food, housing, and job assistance. MUST's permanent housing program houses veterans in local apartments and pays for 70% of the rent.

This December, Home Depot will cover the 30% normally paid by the veterans.

MUST CEO Ike Reighard, at an event announcing the gift Friday, described the organization as a safety net that catches people going through difficult times.

"The biggest thing you lose in a poverty situation is you lose choices," Reighard said, adding that these rent payments will give some choice back to these veterans.

The announcement came as a surprise to the veterans, who were only told that the event held at Mosaic Church and Community Resource Center would be a Veterans Day celebration.

"This is a big bonus for them, at Christmas especially. It will help many of them buy presents for their family, or they may splurge on something for themselves," said Jan Apo, MUST's permanent supportive housing director and a former U.S. Army colonel.

Apo said that Home Depot regularly works with MUST and contributed around $4,500 to the nonprofit for Operation Surprise, $3,000 of which will cover rent costs. The rest will be spent on food for the veterans, including a Thanksgiving meal.

Chris Rollerson, a 23-year-old living in MUST housing in Marietta, said the rent payment will make a huge difference for him. He couldn't stop smiling while talking about it.

"I'm actually putting the money towards my car, and I'm going to save up to pay for two classes next year," said Rollerson, who still serves in the U.S. Army Reserves.

Rollerson plans to study biology at the University of West Georgia starting this spring.

He is the youngest participant in MUST's permanent housing program and said he lived in a MUST shelter after being homeless for two weeks. He recently found a job with help from MUST, and he credited the program with saving his life.

"I'm now able to turn my life around," Rollerson said.