Local veteran overwhelmed by strangers' kindness

Posted at 5:14 PM, Jan 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-15 20:14:47-05

LAKESIDE, Calif. - A Lakeside man is no longer drinking and bathing in contaminated water thanks to the kindness of total strangers.

It all started when Steve Ellenson called for a new water filter for his backyard well. He had been using brown, murky water for years to wash his clothes and bathe in.

Ellenson said he can never quite get the all the minerals off of him when he showers, but he never thought the water could be dangerous.

Tim Guishard dropped a camera down Ellenson's well in Lakeside and knew there was a problem when he saw the brown water.

He had it tested, and said, "We found the well presented for coliform bacteria and the nitrate levels were right at the maximum contamination level for drinking water."

Guishard told Ellenson he needed a new well. While that is something one might expect a well contractor to say, Guishard volunteered to do the job for free.

10News Anchor Itica Milanes asked him why, and Guishard replied, "I still haven't figured that out yet."

Guishard was much too modest about his generosity. He called on some friends to help with the drilling. Stehly Brothers Drilling brought in a lot of heavy equipment, and they too are doing it for free.

It's hard for Ellenson to wrap his head around the kindness of strangers.

"It's a very radical exact opposite," Ellenson said.

Opposite of the ridicule and shame he's been dealing with since 1970. Ellenson is a Vietnam veteran who was ostracized when he came home from the war. He withdrew from society and has been living in the shadows, until now.

"That people actually care; that's why I'm more than thankful for everything -- everything," an emotional and tearful Ellenson told 10News.

This is the second act of kindness in the last month. More than 100 volunteers with the organization Embrace took part in "Healing our Heroes' Homes" and remodeled Ellenson's entire house in December.

He said, "Amazing; kind of thought about it and said, 'Wow, man, there are nice people in the world, you know?"

If you know a veteran who could use some help around their home, Embrace would like you to go to their website for more information.