By Audrey Spencer

Killeen Daily Herald

COPPERAS COVE - Gray clouds and a cool breeze didn't make the 2nd Platoon, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, question plans to help out at Cove House Emergency Homeless Shelter Friday.

About 30 troops arrived at 9 a.m. to start tearing up the floor in the men's portion of the facility to replace it with new ceramic tile.

"They hauled out the old stuff in an hour," said Ben Tindall, executive director of Cove House. By 11:30 a.m., they were already laying the new base for the tile.

The soldiers also worked on repainting trim work, replacing lighting and repairing a roof while music blasted from a media player in the house.

Edward Balbuena said he had never taken part in a service project before, but enjoyed the opportunity to give back.

"It was a platoon decision to come help," he said. "I know I'm helping other people. I know if I was in this situation, I'd want other people helping me."

Besides helping with much-needed repair work at the shelter, the event gave the platoon a break from its everyday routine at Fort Hood.

"It's awesome to get away," said squad leader Nathan Fredly. "It's nice to step away from work, build camaraderie and work as a team."

About half of the men in the platoon have a background in home improvement and construction, and the other soldiers learned as they helped.

"We're working together to accomplish the mission set out for us," said Fredly.

Exposure to the services Cove House offers even convinced one soldier to come back to participate in its Bible study.

"I have a Bible study I go to on base, but I want to reach out to other Christians and see how Jesus came into their life," said Michael Allen.

The influx of 30 people shocked Mary Claire Huslage, volunteer coordinator at Cove House, when she found out about it.

"It opens the possibility of doing a lot of major projects we don't have the time or manpower for," she said. "This was the last floor that needed to be done of the four houses."

Huslage's parents arrived around noon with sandwiches for the platoon.

"I just wish they knew how much we appreciate them," she said. "To get that project done is fantastic."

Cove House operates by providing shelter for homeless people for up to two weeks, and also provides a food pantry and free clothing to people in need.

"The men who stay at the shelter will benefit because we had some large holes that are being repaired and covered," said Tindall. "We try to provide a homey atmosphere as opposed to a dingy shelter."

Working with the Fort Hood platoon also helps the organization network and make connections with people they can work with again, he said. "The trickle-down effect is a big opportunity for further service in other areas."

Contact Audrey Spencer at aspencer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476.

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