Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012

Volunteers deliver on tough home challenge

Woman, whose home was wait-listed for three years, has wish granted

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After living in a hotel for more than two weeks, 77-year-old Dora Henderson, the widow of Navy veteran Clifford Henderson who died in 1989, returned to her home Saturday in Phenix City, Ala. Her newly renovated home was in thanks to the efforts of Soldiers, volunteers, House of Heroes and the Sergeants Major Association.

“Henderson’s house had been previewed three years ago and no one would take it because it needed so much work done to it,” said Kelly Darr, administrative assistant for House of Heroes. “And (people) didn’t have the skills and the volunteers to do the work.”

Usually volunteers get a budget of $750, Darr said, but because of the extensiveness of the work they got a slightly higher budget. But even then volunteers went out and got donations or dipped into their own pockets. “That’s what it takes — a lot of times its the volunteers going out and asking,” she said.

Soldiers from several units — 11th Engineer Battalion, 209th Military Police and B Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Armored Combat Team — and civilian volunteers dedicated a month of their time to taking on Henderson’s house.

Sgt. Maj. Nestor Rodriguez from the Sergeants Major Association was the team captain for the project. He, along with retired Command Sgt. Maj. Sam Rhodes, was able to look at photos of houses needing repair that were on the waiting list.

“We saw the houses and we noticed they were very light work,” he said. “And I saw the date on this one, this lady had been waiting since February of 2010. I told Rhodes we’ve got to take this one. We came out here, we met her ... we saw what we signed up for and we were like ‘oh my God, this is going to be a challenge.’”

Despite the challenge of renovating Henderson’s home, Rodriguez said it was a humbling experience and was grateful everyone came together to create a new home for Henderson.

Spcs. Steven Downey and Travell Davis, from 11th Engineers, were part of the crew that did most of the construction. Downey drew on his own construction skills to help change flooring, fix holes in the roof and install new plumbing.

Davis, a mechanic, said he learned a new skill — one that allowed him to learn on the spot and for a good cause and also, perhaps, go back to his own home and take on do-it-yourself projects.

After getting a walkthrough of her home, Henderson said she loved what the group had done — especially the kitchen and new bathroom. The crew installed a donated bathtub that allowed her to get in and out with ease. She said she also enjoyed watching the volunteers work on her home — but more importantly she now gets the opportunity to enjoy it.

“I’m staying home,” she said. “No more motels.”

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