DALLAS Vernon Freeman's cheerful laugh is contagious.

"I tell 'em if you don't want me to hug you don't come over to my house 'cause I'm sure going to hug you if you come to my house," he said on the back steps of his house ending in a laugh.

Renovations are almost done on his home of a half-century in South Oak Cliff.

"It looked like you needed to take a bulldozer to it," said David Haynes, owner of Wylie-based Wall to Wall Renovations.

An electrical fire 16 months ago gutted the house.News 8 first met Mr. Freeman not long afterward as he kept returning to clean up what little he could.

With no insurance, he was unable to afford repairs.

"When we first got here he just looked like he had no hope at all," said Wendy Haynes, a Wylie resident.

His story touched her.

"I just saw the story and said 'This can't end this way. This is not how this story should end,'" she added.

Haynes and other volunteers built a Facebook page first. Generosity wasn't far behind. They worked every weekend the last nine months. All told, providing more than $80,000 in material and labor.

This Saturday afternoon, after working their way through a punch list, Wendy and other volunteers are planning a welcome home party for Mr. Freeman as he moves back in.

"I just hug 'em and thank 'em. That's all I can do," he said.

At 86, Mr. Freeman said he doesn't look back on loss.

Instead, he only lives for the future.

Thanks to the kindness of strangers who now feel like family, Mr. Freeman has a lot to look forward to.


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