Veteran who got new home through community effort to be focus of film

July 31, 2018

A Seattle-based foundation is making a film about how various groups transformed the Santa Fe home of 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran Fred Vigil, whose trailer burned to the ground on Christmas Day 2016.

Vigil’s new home, for which his niece raised money via a GoFundMe page, was reconstructed with the help of the Home Depot Foundation and several other groups — both national and local.

From the time of the fire to now, Zakayla Productions Foundation has been committed to telling Vigil’s story.

“He lost everything: his dogs, his uniforms, his medals, his money,” said Wana Choy, executive director for Zakayla, which focuses on giving aid to and telling stories of disabled veterans around the country through eco-friendly and energy-efficient home renovation.

“When we found out about Fred, we knew this was who we wanted to help,” she said

The film, which Choy hopes will become part of a cable television documentary series called Operation Eco-Renovation, features Vigil, as well as several other local veterans who came to help with reconstruction. Choy explained that several filmmakers from around New Mexico helped gather footage.

“We have been planning this project for months,” Choy said. “The main focus for us has always been around the story of our veteran and how we can bring the community together to help.”

Vigil, a Vietnam War veteran, is camera shy. “I have PTSD and I don’t like being on TV,” he said.

However, he said he feels honored and believes these types of stories can inspire other people. “I just know there are a lot of veterans that deserve this more than I do. I don’t know how I got chosen.”

Earlier this month Home Depot Foundation began improving the property, which included installing a ramp, replacing single-frame windows with wider panels, stripping carpeting and implementing laminated flooring and exchanging a bathtub for a walk-in shower.

But Choy said the project couldn’t have been possible without collaboration from others sharing the goal of serving war veterans.

Habitat for Humanity in Santa Fe provided a generous grant to build the ramp and helped with plumbing the shower, Choy said.

Also, Bonifacio Gurule of Corrales Builders, who has terminal bone cancer, donated drawings and contracting services, and Jay Gorman of Gorman Lighting, donated time and services to install the electrical work for his fans, dishwasher and light fixtures, according to Choy.

In addition to Home Depot Foundation’s headcount of 49 volunteers were an estimated 20 or so others who helpedt, said Choy.

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