Ushering in Veterans Day Weekend,
Keynote Speaker
U.S. Army Veteran Sophia E. Eccleston,

Who Serves as an External Affairs (EA) Manager for Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) Shared Her Story



BOCA RATON, Fla. (November 9, 2019) — To usher in Veterans Day in South Palm Beach County, businesses and area residents joined Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County (HFHSPBC) to honor and serve military veterans in appreciation for their service as they transformed 10 homes within the Boca Raton’s New Pines neighborhood through the organization’s Neighborhood Revitalization program powered by Vertical Bridge Holdings.  More than 250 corporate team members from sponsoring companies participated in the HFHSPBC’s 2019 VETERANS BUILD that was made possible by a generous gift from Presenting Sponsor Vertical Bridge, grant funding from Materials Sponsor Home Depot Foundation & TeamDepot and Home Sponsors: Vertical Bridge, FPL, Wells Fargo, Boca Grove Country Club, Fidelity National Title Group, Champion Solutions Group, Baptist Health South Florida, Boca Rio Foundation and the City of Boca Raton.


To start the morning off, welcome remarks were made by HFHSPBC President & CEO Randy Nobles, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer alongside Council Members Jeremy Rodgers and Monica Mayotte followed by a group cheer led by Home Depot. The lunch program featured a presentation of the colors by the Atlantic High School Army JROTC, recognition of all veterans present at the event, and a keynote speech by U.S. Army Veteran Sophia E. Eccleston, an External Affairs (EA) manager for Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) in Palm Beach County responsible for advocating with local elected officials and key community stakeholders. Eccleston joined the Army in 1995 and was assigned to the 95th Military Police (MP) Battalion, in Heidelberg, Germany as a Logistics Specialist. She was later transferred to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia where she was assigned to the 224th Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion. There she served the remainder of her time until she was honorably discharged in 1998. Along with her military experience, Sophia also worked for Halliburton and KBR Inc., in the Middle East and Africa. Two of her most notable roles were negotiating multimillion-dollar contracts to build infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan for the United States military and starting up the first Regional Expediting Department located in Dubai.

Following Eccleston’s speech, CEO Alex Gellman of Vertical Bridge, the 2019 Veterans Build Presenting Sponsor, gave a $60,000 check to HFHSPBC as the nonprofit’s overall Annual Neighborhood Revitalization Program Sponsor. In addition, Home Depot’s Regional VP of South Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Santi Bernardez presented the organization with a gift card in the amount of $116,897, representing Home Depot’s total annual support to HFHSPBC’s Neighborhood Revitalization program through materials sponsorship of various projects.

Among the veteran homeowners, were:


  • Hubert Barkoski “Skip”:
    Skip enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1961 and was sent to Okinawa, Japan during the Vietnam War. He served four years in Supplies Artillery. He met his wife Sherry and has been married for 56 years.  Skip and Sherry have given everything to provide for their daughter and four grandchildren leaving little for them to keep up with the repairs on their home.  They are both involved in the New Pines Community working along Wayne Barton to help children in the community.  Skip and Sherry have several medical conditions and Sherry has taken a job at Steak and Shake just to try to keep up with their medical bills.  The children and grandchildren will do whatever it takes to assure they live their final years in a safe and decent home they deserve.


  • Steven Kirkman:

Steven Kirkman, son of a WWII veteran, is a Vietnam-Era veteran who served as a cruiser sailor on USS Columbus CG-12, a guided-missile cruiser during the 1960s. He later re-enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, in the logistical field where he volunteered for combat cargo transport support.  He is now 75 and is a survivor of prostate cancer and critical heart issues. Kirkman moved into his house with his parents in 1953; when his parents passed away, he inherited the home.  He attends church regularly and is a 33-year Master Mason at the Boca/Delray Lodge 171 and a 23-year Shriner.  He is retired and still enjoys fishing, although with aging and medical issues his physical activities have slowed down.


As an affiliate of the global nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity, Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County brings people together to build homes, community and hope in the cities of Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Boca Raton, Florida. We build because we believe that everyone everywhere should have a safe, decent and affordable place to call home, especially those hard-working, low-income families who have yet been able to qualify for traditional mortgage financing. To give a “hand-up, never a hand-out”, the 501(c)(3) organization depends upon volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money, materials, services and property to fulfill its mission. To learn more about HFHSPBC, its home build sponsorships, corporate team builds, fundraising events, year-round volunteer opportunities and donations to our home improvement and thrift shop ReStores in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, contact James McLelland, HFHSPBC Manager, Resource Development & Marketing at [email protected] or (561) 819-6070 x 208.