Eric Carver is currently in Africa serving his country as a member of the Air National Guard.
When he returns to East Patchogue in a few weeks, he will find his home destroyed.
On Dec. 27, Carver's Lake Drive home was burglarized and then set on fire in a tragic blow to the tight-knit Swan Lake Park neighborhood and one of its most dedicated community servants.
"Everyone is in complete shock," said Patricia Sitler, who lives next door to the New York State Police trooper. "The whole community was just standing and sobbing in front of his house. We just couldn't believe it."
According to police, someone broke into Carver's home last Thursday afternoon and stole a handgun. The burglar(s) set the home on fire around 4 p.m. and then stole Carver's 1997 Chevy pickup truck that was in the driveway.
State troopers, who had been notified of the incident, found the truck a couple days later in Bellport, according to Suffolk Police. The truck has been impounded for evidence. No arrests have been made.
Carver, the president of the Swan Lake Park Civic Association, is coming home to devastation. While the home's structure was largely spared in the fire, Sitler estimated that 90 percent of Carver's belongings were destroyed.
"Everything is either completely burnt to ash or it actually melted that it is molded to the wall," said Sitler, whose husband Robert rushed to the scene of the flames and attempted to douse them with a hose before firefighters arrived.
"He doesn't even have clothing," she added. "Everything is gone."
A cat belonging to a friend who was house-sitting while Carver is overseas also died in the blaze.
Carver, who has been deployed since September, and was informed of the burglary and fire by Robert Sitler, is due home late this month or early February. Before then, the Swan Lake community, long known for its generosity and kind-hearted spirit, is going all out for a man Patricia Sitler called a giving person everyone loves and adores.
A GiveForward fundraising page has already raised more than $3,000 to go toward rebuilding Carver's home. One donor, Howie Mann, wrote of Eric: "I speak for many, when I say that we all wish that we can clone an individual like you. The world would be a much better place."
Thomas Roach, 10, another neighbor of Carver’s, gave his mother the money he received for Christmas to buy bracelets to help raise money for the rebuild. The red, white and blue bracelets with the word “HERO” on them are being sold for $3 each.
A bake sale, where the bracelets will also be available for purchase, is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 12 from 1-5 p.m. at the Swan Lake community center located at 86 Lake Drive. That event, which already has nearly 100 confirmed attendees on its Facebook page, is open to the general public.
Legis. Rob Calarco encouraged local residents to come out to support Carver in a post on his Facebook page Wednesday.
“Anyone who has met him will tell you what a remarkably generous and selfless person Eric is–and having known him for the last few years, I too can attest to his giving spirit,” Calarco wrote. “But even if you don't know him personally–you know someone like him. Someone who gives of themselves endlessly.”
How You Can Help
Online donations via: http://www.giveforward.com/supportforericourlocalhero
Attend the bracelet and bake sale. Event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/422293917840703/
If you do not live locally and want a bracelet, send a $3 payment to firstname.lastname@example.org via: https://payments.amazon.com/sdui/sdui/index.htm