Veterans Build 2021 

Habitat for Humanity and Angels Community Outreach Partner to Help Gloucester County Veteran

Meet Staff Sergeant Leo J. Harris 

Born October 29, 1927, Mr. Harris was not just yet 18 when he voluntarily enlisted into the United States Naval Reserves.  Just one of the more than one and a half million African Americans who served in the United States military forces during World War II, Mr. Harris spent 7 months as a Naval Reserve before transitioning into an active seaman in November, 1945 –  at the tender age of 18.

Spending 4 years in the Navy, Mr. Harris was honorable discharged in the summer of 1949. At 22 years old, Mr. Harris elected to go to New York to follow in his father’s footsteps at the Brooklyn School of Auto Trade.  After 3 years of education and two years into the Korean War, Mr. Harris signed up for the United States Marine Corps and went to Parris Island on August 19, 1952. Immediately after boot camp, Mr. Harris was assigned to officer training at Quantico which he remembers as a “rack you over the coals” experience. Around this time, the Marines cautiously integrated African Americans into combat units. This is when Mr. Harris spent 15 months in Korea as part of the final phase of the War.

The year is 1954. The United States Supreme Court rules that race-based segregation in schools is unconstitutional. The first color television commercial aired, Elvis Presley tanked at the Grand Ole Opry. 

It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century, after the Korean War that African-American Serviceman began to receive the recognition and equality they deserved. Mr. Harris was a 27 year old Drill Sergeant at Parris Island, a time when there was a major transformation for African-American citizens in the United States. After serving 2 years as a Drill Sergeant, Mr. Harris was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina where he trained at the Marine Corps Combat Service Support School.

Now it is the summer of 1965, President Johnson had already sent the first major combat deployment of an integrated military to Vietnam.  Now a member of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines Mr. Harris gets the call, he was off to Vietnam.  Mr. Harris was a Gunnery Sergeant during his two tours in Vietnam before he needed to be medevaced due to injuries sustained in a battle.

After spending almost 22 years fighting for our country Mr. Leo J Harris became an active military retiree on January 31, 1970. Determined to focus on his family and laying down roots in Williamstown, NJ Mr. Harris wanted to make an impact in the community. That is when he started a mechanic shop with his father where he worked for years.  Unfortunately, his youngest daughter suffered a seizure that permanently disabled her. At that point Mr. Harris changed careers and went into special education where he spent 14 years before retiring.

Fast forward to August of 2021.

Mr. Harris is now 93 years old, living alone with no assistance family or friends. He is confined to a 10×14 bedroom with the inability to carry out a “normal day”.  This is when our friends at Angels Community Outreach connected with us to discuss how we can help Mr. Harris get outside to enjoy the sunshine. Assisting to improve Mr. Harris’ life falls right in line with Habitat for Humanity’s mission to put God’s love into action.

The phrase “It takes a village” is real. We’ve been able to secure donations from Home Depot, Columbia Bank and Quikrete to build a ADA Compliant ramp but Angels and Habitat do not want to end there. We, as community organizations are coming together to raise funds to redo Mr. Harris’ living room and bathroom these upgrades and repairs will ensure Mr. Harris will live in a safe, decent home.  A small thank you to a true American hero.

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Thank you to our corporate and individual donors:

  • Woodbury American Legion Post 133
  • Home Depot Foundation
  • Columbia Bank
  • Lowes
  • Van’s Gutters
  • Wible Tree Service
  • Quickrete
  • Billows Electric
  • Friedrich Heating & A/C
  • Heimlich Electric
  • Ace Plumbing and Electrical – heater/AC, hot water heater/bath faucet
  • Lowes Mantua – interior finishes
  • Lowes Turnersville – interior finishes
  • Lowes Deptford – interior finishes
  • Home Depot Deptford – interior finishes
  • Home Depot Turnersville – washer
  • Home Depot Vineland – dryer
  • Keith Heimlich Electrical
  • St. Paul’s Methodist Church, West Deptford 


  • Robert and Josephine Paskevicius
  • Holly Niemeyer-Schorpp
  • Penny DeGeorge
  • Nancy Mozzachio
  • Jeanne Gamber
  • Michelle Garcia
  • Amanda Potopchuk
  • Kenneth Abbruzzese
  • Maryann Leone
  • Michelle Massimi
  • Carol Boccuti
  • John Freeman
  • Jackie Drake
  • Richard & Janice Anastasi
  • Carol & John Wesh
  • Catherine Allen-Carlozo
  • Rich & Lore Gess