Rainy Weather no Match for "Operation Soldier Assist"
September 20, 2007
LOWRY CITY, Mo. (Army News Service, Sept. 20, 2007) - With saw blades whirring, hammers pounding and rain lightly falling, over 40 home remodeling professionals, Missouri National Guard Soldiers and other volunteers from the Kansas City area helped remodel the home of a local wounded Soldier, retired Sgt. George Bellis.
The chilly, rainy weather could not deter "Operation Soldier Assist," a humanitarian effort and community-service project of Kansas City National Association of the Remodeling Industry, in cooperation with the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.
"It is our intent, and that of KCAUSA, for this project to serve as a model for bringing communities and organizations together to help those who have served and sacrificed for our country," said Scott Balentine, Kansas City NARI president.
Kansas City NARI members donated materials and labor to make significant improvements to the home of Sgt. Bellis, who lives in a 1911 farmhouse in Lowry City with his wife, Tricia, and their three children, Canaan, 12, Hunter, 9, and Grace, 4. K
CAUSA volunteers assisted the family and organized support from Soldiers and community and civic organizations.
"We couldn't have done this without the National Guard's help," said Diane Boeger, KCAUSA member and "Operation Soldier Assist" co-coordinator. "The have really stepped up."
According to Ms. Boeger, the Missouri National Guard identified a Soldier in need for the project. Guard members helped with demolition, clean-up, moving household items, directing traffic, cordoning off parking areas for volunteers and supporting the remodeling professionals.
"We are totally overwhelmed by the generosity of Kansas City NARI and the Kansas City Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army," said Mrs. Bellis. "While we believe there are other families who may be more deserving, we are most grateful for all of the wonderful volunteers who donated materials and time to make improvements to our home. We cannot thank them enough."
Upon returning from Iraq in 2004, Sgt. Bellis was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and medically discharged from the Missouri National Guard due to the extent of his injuries. His wife left her job to care for him and their three children.
Mrs. Bellis was presented with the key to her home and a $30,000, four-year scholarship for tuition, books and software from Grantham University, which will enable Tricia to pursue a degree online and remain at home to care for her husband and family.
"Patriots come in many forms," said DeAnn Wandler, director of admissions at Grantham University and a director of the KCAUSA Board. "The wives and children of our military members face unique challenges, such as location, separation and financial hardship. When a Soldier is deployed the spouse becomes a single parent. These family warriors are often overlooked. We're excited to invest in the future of this family and give the gift that keeps on giving - education."
In total, the project included more than $50,000 worth of donations for furnishings, volunteer meals and the scholarship.
"One organization cannot provide this type of support," said retired Col. Mike Neer, president of KCAUSA. "But when one group asks two others and those ask another two, and so on - by the end you have a community providing support. When groups come together you can accomplish so much more."
(Bethany Buckingham works for the Missouri National Guard Public Affairs Office.)