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Croton Veteran Receives Furniture Surprise

Dennis O'Toole seeing his new furniture in the back of a moving van. Photo Credit: Sam Barron
Dennis O'Toole's apartment before he was surprised with furniture. Photo Credit: Sam Barron
Movers move Dennis O'Toole's sofa into his Croton apartment. Photo Credit: Sam Barron
Dennis O'Toole enjoying his new recliner. Photo Credit: Sam Barron
Dennis O'Toole in his new queen bed. O'Toole is hoping to have someone join him in that bed soon. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

CROTON, N.Y. -- Dennis O'Toole, a Croton resident and Vietnam War veteran, has a place that truly feels like home.

A Bassett Furniture delivery truck surprised O'Toole, who was previously homeless, with $8,000 in new furniture to furnish his new apartment on Springvale Road.

"I am shocked," O'Toole said. "This feels great, I am looking forward to it. I am so grateful."

O'Toole was previously staying at the VA Hospital in Montrose via Common Ground, a program committed to helping and housing veterans and found his home thanks to the Patriot Housing Initiative, run by the county.

"It was so great to meet Dennis," Tina Balboni of Bassett Furniture said. "We can come in and just sell furniture, but we want to be part of the community. To be able to help him is terrific. It makes what we do more meaningful."

As movers furnished O'Toole's apartment, he admired his new sofa.

"I can lie down and watch TV!" O'Toole exclaimed.

O'Toole was getting a DVD player, a dining set with four sets and even a painting to hang over his new queen size bed. O'Toole said he was hopeful to have someone to share his bed with.

"I'm not dead yet," O'Toole said.

O'Toole was in the Gulf of Tonkin at the beginning of the Vietnam War, later working for a steamship company that saw him living in Africa for three years. He later became a seaman and worked as a registered nurse at the VA hospital.

Howard Charton, program director of Common Ground at the Montrose VA said the county has helped eradicate homelessness among veterans in Mount Vernon and Yonkers. According to Charton, 25 percent of all homeless people are veterans. Homelessness among veterans has declined from 300,000 in the 1990s to 70,000.

Charton praised the work that Bassett Furniture in furnishing the apartment.

"They do a bang up job," Charton said. "They talked to each veteran and found out what they liked. They even get their floor plan."

Bassett, which opens a location in Hartsdale next week, furnished the homes as part of County Executive Rob Astorino's 100-Day Challenge to house and employ veterans.

Astorino's two challenges have seen more than 150 veterans find homes and 45 veterans find employment.

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