CLERMONT COUNTY, Ohio -- Several hundred people showed up at Keith Maupin's home in Mount Carmel on Sunday expecting to see him shave off his iconic beard. What they got to see instead was a man overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he has received from the community.
Between 300 to 500 people were in attendance for the open-house unveiling of the brand new Yellow Ribbon Support Center.
Maupin used to call the space his garage. But now it will serve as the spot where he and his volunteers will work creating and shipping out car packages filled with items to soldiers across the country and the world.
Maupin and his ex-wife Carolyn started the Yellow Ribbon Support Center in August 2004, a few months after their son Matt was captured by insurgents in an attack on his convoy. They started sending care packages to troops - in 12 x 12 x 12 boxes with their son's picture on them -- hoping another soldier had information that could lead them one step closer to finding him.
Matt’s remains were found in Iraq in March 2008.
Even after Matt’s burial, Maupin kept sending packages to troops. But more than 21,000 packages later, he had to stop temporarily when rent for the old center in Clermont County more than tripled.
So volunteers like Michael Barrett stepped in to help him out. Barrett and more than 100 volunteers have donated their time, money and energy to convert the old storage facility in the backyard of Maupin's house on Mt. Carmel-Tobasco Road into the hub of an international support center for American heroes.
“This man asks for nothing and gives everything he has to others,” said Barrett, owner of MAB HVAC Services in Covington. “He does so much for the community, so much for the soldiers. It’s good to see the community respond.”
But they didn’t stop there. In August, Barrett organized an army of suppliers and contractors to make over Maupin’s Mount Carmel home after it fell into disrepair. He had spent so much time on his nonprofit that things around his house started to break down.
It was to the point where he was sleeping in his car during the summer because his AC didn’t work.
As of Sunday, though, volunteers say they only have a few odds and ends to finish up before the house is complete.
Maupin agreed to shave off his beard if volunteers were able to raise the $41,000 needed to pay off his house.
The group didn't quite get there so they only trimmed a few inches of gray whiskers from his face. Event organizers and supporters hope they'll get to see his bare face in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, Maupin plans to turn his attention back to the troops. He plans to send out his first care package by Friday.
"I've already got 45 names on my list," he said.