BELMONT — More than a dozen people joined U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gonzalo Duran on Wednesday to clean up his father's former house, which he hopes to convert into transitional housing for returning soldiers.
Duran, who served in the Marines from 2003 until 2011, said the turnout was bigger than he expected. He added that he has started to be recognized for the work on his father's old home, at 2381 Lorillard Place, near East 181st Street.
"I've actually walked out of the VA hospital, and people will say, 'Oh, you're the vet trying to save the house!'" he said.
Helpers spent Wednesday afternoon sweeping in and around the house and trimming outside, but the biggest project for the day was cleaning out the shed in the backyard, which Duran plans to demolish.
"By the winter, I want to have it knocked down," he said.
Raul Rodriguez, a candidate for the New York State Assembly's 79th District, was one of the people who stopped by to help with Wednesday's cleanup efforts. He and Duran have known each other for about three years, and he was confident that the former Marine would be able to transform his father's old house.
"He's getting the job done," he said, "and that's what happens when you have someone with a good heart and good intentions."
Members of the Chaplain Workers Federation, a service organization, were also on hand to help. Carlos Baez, president of the organization, was optimistic about Duran's project as well.
"It would be great for veterans," he said. "Hopefully, we won't have that many veterans coming home that are homeless."