By Ronnie Garrett
CANTON, Texas — Recently, TJ Junell, a U.S. military veteran, had Thanksgiving come early when he showed up at A Great Outdoor RV Center to pick up a pan of cornbread, and left with a newer RV to call home.
Junell, originally came to the Canton, Texas, RV dealership to obtain service for his aging RV, and to get its oven operating in time for Thanksgiving.
In speaking with him, Don Bloom, owner of the RV dealership, learned a few things about the Vietnam vet. He learned that Junell was living on fixed income that left little excess for expensive RV repairs, that his RV couldn’t be hauled in for repair work, and that he loved cornbread and needed his oven working so he could make it.
Bloom called in Lee Garber, owner of Uptime Fleet Service, a mobile RV repair service based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to perform the repairs. The two agreed that Garber would provide the labor for free if Bloom provided the parts, and that Bloom’s partner, Dee, would make Junell a dish of her famous cornbread for Thanksgiving.
“He wanted his oven working so he could make cornbread. He told me he loved to make cornbread,” Bloom said.
But when Garber showed up to repair the RV, he found it in such a state of disrepair that it would have been cost prohibitive to fix it.
“It was in such poor shape. It had no running water, no heat, no stove, and no oven,” he said. ““He was using a hose, a black hose that was coiled up to make his hot water. He had a little baby Cortez heater on the floor, that wasn’t even capable of keeping the trailer warm. It was terrible. He had a mattress on the floor to sleep on and plywood and trash bags covering the walls to keep heat in, and the elements out.”
When Garber realized the RV couldn’t be fixed, he asked Bloom and the local East Texas community for help. Bloom had recently sold a 2005 trailer to a customer, and he approached the customer to see if he could buy it back. The customer agreed. And, on Wednesday, they surprised Junell with the fully equipped RV.
Junell told Channel 19, who captured the surprise, “This is way above what I was ever expecting, and I do appreciate people.”
Garber has set out to raise funds for to pay for the RV. They are within $1,000 of paying everything completely. He has set up a You Caring page to raise the rest.
RV Daily Report also contributed to raising funds, by donating to Garber’s effort. “I’d like to thank Terry and Evada Cooper of RV Daily Report for their donation,” Garber said.
When asked why this was important for Lee and Bloom to do this, Bloom said: “A Great Outdoor RV Center honors veterans; we give veterans a discount every day. It’s our way of giving back to the people who have fought for our country. Junell would have spent a sizable portion of his income fixing up an RV that was not worth fixing. Now, because of Lee’s efforts in getting this started, and the donations of a caring community, he won’t have to.”