A local agency for veterans is currently accepting applications for foster caregivers — or angels, as Don Nolder calls them.
A 77-year-old Marine Corps veteran, Nolder recently moved to a lake house in Keystone Heights to live with Theresa Dunn and her husband.
A military incident left him restricted to a wheelchair, and it became harder for him to live independently.
“I couldn’t do things that most people take for granted,” Nolder said.
He first heard about the Medical Foster Home Program in Jacksonville, and once it was set up in Gainesville, he became the first to find his match.
The Veterans Health System recently expanded its Medical Foster Home Program for veterans who can’t live alone due to health problems. The nationwide program launched locally in October 2012.
Since then, the Gainesville-area program has been in touch with 25 prospective caregivers but just recently made its first match so far.
“Within the first 10 minutes, we knew he was family,” Dunn said.
Nolder said the move has been a positive change.
“My daughter notices the change in my voice when I talk on the phone,” he said. “I’m not depressed. It’s just a wonderful life here.”
Tanya Fookes, a local coordinator for the program, called offering foster home care “a labor of love.”
She said applicants must have a history in caregiving, own or rent their home and pass a background check plus a series of inspections.
“A lot of people seem to be confused with the role of caregivers. It’s very rewarding,” said Dunn, a former certified nursing assistant.
Nolder refers to her as his “angel.”
“Theresa impacts me every day she feeds me,” Nolder said, laughing. “It’s just good to know she is there, and all I have to do is holler.”
A version of this story ran on page 5 on 9/3/2013 under the headline "Veterans program makes first foster home match"