By Charmain Z. BrackettAugust 18, 2009
HARLEM, Ga. - Tiffany Wallace received the keys to house that love built, Aug. 7.
"I'm really excited and very appreciative of all the people and volunteers," said Wallace, whose husband, Sgt. Darryl Wallace, lost both of his legs in Iraq after his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. Sgt. Wallace is currently receiving treatment at the VA Medical Center in Tampa, Fla.
Hundreds of individuals and dozens of area businesses participated in the Homes for Troops project to benefit the Wallace family.
Tiffany had been searching on the Internet when she discovered the Taunton, Mass.-based organization. She submitted an application, and because of the extent of her husband's injuries was approved.
"We've built homes in 25 states," said Tom Benoit, vice-president and chief financial officer for the non-profit which was started by a builder in 2004.
Seeing the plight of returning injured service members, the founder of Homes for Troops wanted to volunteer his time on a construction project. Not finding one, he started his own.
Homes for Troops enlists volunteers and businesses to take part in the project. Qualified applicants are those who have been severely injured in the combat theater. Other home recipients have included paralyzed veterans.
The Wallace project began in April. The brick home is similar to others built in the neighborhood, but inside the 2,000 square foot home are details that someone in a wheelchair will appreciate. Among the amenities are wider hallways and doorways and pull out cook tops. In other homes, special devices are added to help the veteran adapt.
Fort Gordon became involved in the project through George Guthrie, a veteran who works for Balfour Beatty Communities. He wanted to find a project to donate some materials to and discovered Homes for Troops.
Guthrie, then contacted Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Clark, who attended the Aug. 7 ceremony.
"He said he needed two or three volunteers. I said 'I can give you 200 or 300 people,'" said Clark.
Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Fernandez of the 447th Signal Battalion said Fort Gordon Soldiers worked on every aspect of the build. They were not tasked to the project, but freely gave of their time.
As Darryl Wallace continues his treatments, his family will never have to worry about a mortgage payment because Homes for Troops does not charge the family anything for the home.
Benoit said the organization not only relies on the donated labor and goods, but donations from the community to pay for the home.