COLUMBUS, Ga (WRBL) – A Columbus woman and her father were on the giving end of Christmas this year until tragedy struck but it was what happened afterwards that really showed what Christmas is all about.

(Ret.) Col. Joe Bell, US Army

This is Retired Colonel Joe Bell of the United States Army. Bell, now 94 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s, told his daughter he wanted to leave a legacy and continue to look after other soldiers.

They decided on a mission to pay the property taxes for elderly veterans who weren’t 100% disabled and were at risk of losing their homes.
They called it Operation: “My Home for Another Holiday“.

“He said to me. “You find me 5 elderly veterans who will lose their homes, and we’re going to pay those taxes,” Nancy Bell said her father told her.

With the help from the city of Columbus, she found five people.

But then the worst happened.
After coming home from running errands and getting groceries, Bell walked inside to greet her father. “And when I came back out, check book and mask were on the ground.”

$11,000 dedicated from the Bells for the veterans was stolen. “I was literally gone a minute. It was almost like they were watching me,” she said as she watched the RING security footage provided by her neighbor. The thieves allegedly stole from other houses on the street as well.

So she placed this sign in her front yard. The sign reads: You stole the savings of a World War 2 veteran! It was to keep five elderly veterans in their homes! Now they will be homeless! SHAME ON YOU!”

The sign has only been up for a few days and already passers by who hear the story have decided to join in on the Christmas spirit and donate to the operation.

One lady was the wife of a retired Colonel, Bell says, and when she heard the story and the operation, not only was she moved to tears but she donated $250.

Another elderly woman was passing by with bags of groceries. Bell says she also read the sign, heard the story, put her bags down, and said “here’s what I have, I can only give a dollar.”

“I told her ‘no ma’a’m! That’s not what this is about. “This is to let that thief know. You didn’t take shopping money. You took money out of 6 veterans homes. Shame on you!,” Bell says.

Bell says she wasn’t looking for donations but she’s happy people understand.

“He wanted to leave a legacy and that would be to see to that people know that there are people out there that will lose their homes but our passion is the veterans. Merry Christmas to everyone and God bless our veterans.”

If you have any information about the break ins around 17th street, you are encouraged to call Lt. Locey 706 225 4335.

Bell is also providing a $500 reward for information leading to the arrests of the suspects.