Hometown Hero continues serving

Published 08/13 2013 01:27PM

Updated 08/13 2013 01:38PM

URBANA -- This Hometown Hero uses his heart and his hands to make other people's lives a little more fun. His goal is to make others smile.

Through his artistic skills and volunteering his time, this veteran is able to do that all year round. WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield introduces us to Richard Barnett.

Every year, people flock to Candlestick Lane to see dozens of houses decked out in decorations.

"When you see kids, their eyes light up. It's just amazing the good feeling you get out of it."

To get that feeling, Richard Barnett starts early.

"I wondered if I had the right colors or not."

It's only August, but he'll spend the hot summer in his garage making lawn decorations from scratch.

"I've always enjoyed being able to make things."

It started out as something to do after retirement. Elmo, Scooby Doo and Lightning McQueen were a big hit on the front lawn, so Barnett dedicates several weeks to one each year and reveals it at Christmas. Here's a hint: the one this year wears square pants!

"I still do pretty well with it, thanks to having a t-square and some things to help keep it straight. I'm a little disappointed with Scooby. He didn't turn out exactly the way I wanted him to, but, you know, I'll get time and I'll get him fixed right."

That is, if he can find the time. When it comes to helping veterans Barnett is quite the volunteer.

"I was with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, commander of the Champaign post, district commander, Department of Illinois surgeon. I work with the VA. All they want is to be appreciated for what they've done."

Barnett would know. He was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the Army during Vietnam. That baggage has made Barnett who he is now.

"This one here means more to me than anything."

That's why he made this, to make sure he never forgets.

"This is my reminder that you should be proud. You did what you should have done. Don't hang your head. Be proud."

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