US Army Sgt. Brian Wood has spent two tours of duty in Afghanistan and 28 months away from his family before returning home with two Bronze Stars. Due to explosions, Wood lost the hearing in one ear.
Returning home was not easy for Wood. Besides the hearing loss, he acknowledged that he was having some ‘head problems’ that was making it difficult to cope. The best job he could find was working at a warehouse for $10 an hour. Wood, his wife and three children ended up living with relatives in a two bedroom apartment, which anyone could see was not a good situation.
A counselor at the local VA suggested that Wood apply for housing help with Habitat for Humanity. His family met all of the qualifications, including being able to help with a large part of the construction. It wasn’t long before Habitat for Humanity located and purchased a lot in Morton, a suburb of Peoria, Illinois.
When residents in the Morton subdivision learned of the plans to build a Habitat for Humanity in their neighborhood, they were not happy. They began to complain and protest against the project, fearing that the siding used on the house would not meet up to the appearance of the rest of the subdivision. It didn’t matter to them that a home was being provided for someone who sacrificed so much for his country.
However, the complaints and protests of the neighbors drew local, state and national attention to the project and help came pouring out from all over. People began donating so many things to the house, including, excavation on the lot, wiring, bricks, windows and a roof. Lea Anne Schmidgall, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Peoria told Yahoo News:
“Bad has turned to good. The people who started the petition did us a favor in a roundabout way, because it raised awareness, as well as funds for the project.”
“I think they feared low-income housing and maybe had seen other houses we’ve built in the area, which are vinyl but which fit in with their surrounding neighborhoods. I just think that people jumped the gun and didn’t take the time to find out what they were talking about. It always starts with one person.”
In addition to all of the donated material and labor, US Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) who is from Peoria, helped launch a fund raising effort to help the family. He issued a press release that said:
“The Wood family has sacrificed immensely over the last decade in service to our country. This Habitat home is a small token from myself and a very grateful community for what the Wood family has done for all of us.”
The fund raiser helped the Wood family raise half of the $80,000 they need to secure the 20 year mortgage. They are hoping for more donations so they can start construction in the spring. If you feel inclined to donate to this wounded veteran, you can do so by contacting Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Peoria Area.
I just love to hear stories like this when someone’s bitching backfires on them and causes the target of their ire to be blessed with the generosity of so many others. We hear about strangers donating for families with health issues and people devastated by fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. It makes me believe that there is some humanity and human kindness left in an otherwise angry and hostile society.
I’ll close with the words of Sgt. Wood, who said:
“It means so much to us, and we want to put a positive spin on this. I’ve seen my fair share of war, and I don’t want another with my neighbors.”