A Marietta woman with 25 years of service in the Air Force and Air Force Reserves has some extra cash to make home improvements thanks to Jimmy Fallon and Home Depot.
Vernitta Love, a retired technical sergeant, will receive $50,000 as part of “Operation Surprise,” a contest launched by the Home Depot Foundation in October that invites people to nominate a U.S. military veteran in need of a life-changing home repair.
Love was nominated by her son, Aaron Love, and found out about her prize on Monday’s episode of “The Tonight Show.”
Fallon strutted down from his desk and into the audience, where Love was sitting, before calling her name. The stunned sergeant was at a loss for words. She covered her face and wiped away her tears on her son’s lapel.
Aaron Love said his mother is the type who always puts others first.
“My mom is retired and she is always helping other veterans and homeless vets that are in need, often when she needs help herself,” he wrote in his application.
Aaron Love said she spends time with homeless vets, handing out food and warm clothes, and she even recently shaved her head to support a friend with breast cancer.
In a phone call with the MDJ, Vernitta Love downplayed her service to the community.
“When you’re blessed, when you have been so blessed by others, it’s just the right thing to do,” she said.
Love fought back emotion during the entire segment, especially when Fallon told her the prize would be $50,000 rather than $25,000 as he initially said.
“I was extremely nervous,” she told the MDJ “I almost started hyperventilating. … I was just shocked because I wasn’t expecting it to be us. I just wasn’t expecting it.”
Love said she will spend the prize money to fix some bad wiring in her home.
“I’m always trying to make my house beautiful, but my son is always concerned, he says ‘There’s no sense in making the house beautiful if it’s going to burn down,’” she said. “I have faulty wiring in the house; that’s the main thing we’re going to do.”
Love said she wanted to be sure to remind Americans to continue to pray for the troops, and to tell the world how grateful she is for her son Aaron.
“I just want to say that I have a wonderful son,” she said. “He lives in Nashville and he travels all the time for his job, but he took a moment to think about me, and I’m blessed. I’m blessed to have a wonderful son.”
According to the Home Depot Foundation, the contest drew more than 3,000 nominations from across the country and is part of the foundation’s annual Celebration of Service campaign, a seven-week period when volunteers pledge 100,000 hours of service to veterans nationwide.
During this year’s Celebration of Service, volunteers completed more than 600 projects across the U.S. to help improve veterans’ homes, part of 45,000 transformed since 2011.