On Sunday afternoon, Habitat for Humanity of Jefferson County welcomed another new homeowner, Sammy Jones.
Sammy, who is a Vietnam veteran and beloved member of the Charlton-Pollard neighborhood association, applied for assistance with storm damage to his roof.
When Habitat construction staff did the assessment, they all agreed that the home needed to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch. This raised issues, as the lot was narrow and required a shotgun floor plan that was not a normal Habitat build.
After some research, the construction staff realized that a duplex built for Ft Hood Habitat could be halved and used as the floor plan for a shotgun house with a single inhabitant. Then the fundraising began. Sammy, 81, would not be expected to repay a mortgage, the affiliate needed to find the funding to build a whole new home.
And that’s when the magic started to happen.
Funds from the Justin J. Watt Foundation to support disaster recovery from Hurricane Harvey were made available to Habitat. Wells Fargo bank provided funding for the project and sent a team of volunteers out to work on the build. The American Red Cross provided funding and support. ExxonMobil, whose plant is just down the street from Sammy, also donated funds for the rebuild.
The local electrician’s union had members volunteer to do the electrical work on the Veterans Build project, Habitat only had to purchase the materials. Electricians from Forcier Electric, Gulf Coast Electric, Jefferson Electric, Ryan’s Electric all volunteered their labor. Summit Electrical Supply provided supplies and fixtures at a reduced rate.
In addition to these funders, Habitat for Humanity International gave Veterans Build funds in honor of John J. Finn, the father of Colleen Finn Ridenhour, Senior Vice President of Development.
She was on hand for the dedication and presented Sammy with a plaque commemorating her late father, who was also a veteran of the US Army. She also presented Sammy with a special gift from her mother, wife of John J. Finn. Mrs. Finn gave Sammy a US Army rocking chair for his front porch.
Sammy took a much deserved rest while the crowd was touring his new home. He said the rocking chair was going to be fine for enjoying the evening air.
In addition to the chair, Sammy also received a handmade cross-stitch sampler compliments of the Spindletop Stitchers, a chapter of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America. Ms. Cathy Caldwell was on hand to present the framed wall hanging. Ms. Helena Carter gave Sammy a large framed picture of himself taken during one of the work days, so he can remember the build and all his hard work alongside the volunteers.
Alex Parker, Habitat Project Lead for this Veterans Build, presented Sammy with a flag flown in Afghanistan by the combat unit that Sammy served in while deployed in Vietnam. This flag was flown in combat in honor of Sammy, and then returned to the states so that Alex could present it for Sammy to fly on special occasions.
Sammy Jones, as a Veteran with honorable service, was honored with a flag ceremony by the Southeast Texas Veterans Service Group. Chuck Eberth, USCG retired, addressed the audience and participated in the flag raising ceremony. His group was thrilled to be asked to honor Sammy. Chuck said, “we do a lot of funerals, it’s nice to honor the living.”
The house and its occupant were blessed by Captain Jim Nowatne, a retired Coast Guard chaplain with the Southeast Texas Veterans Service Group.
After the home blessing, the audience was invited to tour the home. Sammy proudly showed off his new place to his friends and family who attended the Home Dedication ceremony. Many of his neighbors volunteered on the build and were thrilled to share stories of what parts of the home they helped to construct.
As soon as the final occupancy inspection is completed by the city, Sammy will be able to move into his new home.