FORT WALTON BEACH — Steve Prince is not one to expect help or handouts.
In fact, when he was getting ready to move into his childhood home, the 57-year-old was up until 3 a.m. most days trying to make it more accommodating for his wife, who is confined to a wheelchair. Much of the house needs updates, including the air conditioning unit, which was unreliable.
But then on June 9, Jonathan Dandridge of Climate Engineers of Florida arrived at the Prince’s house with a brand-new AC unit. Dandridge went “all out” donating an ultraviolet purifying light, digital touchscreen thermostat and even added a new air vent to a room that was not climate controlled.
“Five of us showed up that morning. We just treated it like a normal job,” said Dandridge. “Mr. Prince shared how appreciative he was. I think the guys felt good about it, like they were a part of something special.”
Prince was a caretaker for his mother before she passed away two years ago. And he’s been a devoted caretaker to his wife who has suffered two strokes, one in 2013 and another last year.
Dandridge was connected to Prince through United Way, who accompanied Climate Engineers of Florida to the AC installation last Saturday. Seeing the work that still needed to be done to the home, the nonprofit got in touch with volunteers to help. Throughout the past week, people have stopped by to do everything from install ceiling fans, nail down baseboards and help build a wheelchair ramp.
“Steve’s never once said ‘Poor me,’” said Cindy Holmes, resource development director for United Way of Okaloosa and Walton Counties. “He just has the most contagious smile on his face. He’s the kind of person who was doing the best with what he’s got. We wanted to connect him with resources to help … that’s what we do.”
Prince said the past week has been “overwhelming and unexpected.”
“It’s a different side of life that I’ve never seen,” Prince said. “It’s nice to see helping hands come together.”
Prince grew up in Fort Walton Beach before he joined the Army. His wife was a certified nursing assistant before she became disabled. He said he’s looking forward to finishing home repairs and relaxing with his wife. And since he’s working around the clock to get repairs done, he’s even more grateful for that AC unit. It’s the good deed that keeps giving.
“I’ve been very blessed,” he said. “No matter what life deals you, the Lord will always make a way.”
To donate time or resources to help the Prince family, or learn about volunteering opportunities in general, contact United Way of Okaloosa and Walton Counties at 243-0315.