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Operation Finally Home for disabled veterans

ANTIOCH – Wide hallways, appliances reachable from a seated position, U-shape handles instead of harder-to-grasp knobs – it’s all in the house.

And for one disabled veteran, it’s all on the house.

Thanks to a major private donor and a load of organizations and businesses – a handful from McHenry County – that have jumped on board to help, one man or woman will soon be awarded a house in an Antioch development called Newport Cove.

“It’s been a little depressing to be in the building business the last few years,” said Susanne Tauke, owner of New American Homes, Inc. “I must say this has really made people feel good about it, feel good about themselves. For me, it’s taking a negative and turning it into a positive.”

The home is called a “LIFEhouse,” and was designed by New American Homes and an architecture program at the University of Buffalo that specializes in accessibility. Everything from kitchen cabinets to showers to lighting is designed under the principal of “universal accessibility.”

In theory, most anyone who enters the home – short, tall, small, big or disabled – should have no problem getting around and accessing whatever he or she needs.

A similar LIFEhouse design won the 2012 Best of 50-Plus Housing Award from the National Association of Home Builders.

After the award became public, Tauke said a private donor came forward with the idea to build a similar house for a veteran.

“The donor wanted to find someone who had mobility issues because that’s what this house is designed for,” she said. “Someone who it’d be easier to live in this house than a different home.”

New American Homes is currently taking applications from various veterans associations to choose a veteran who could reap the benefits of the house. Operation Finally Home, which places wounded and disabled veterans in homes, is helping with the process. The organizations will award the house on Aug. 18.

After initial costs, much of the labor and materials were donated. The Chicago former players chapter of the NFL Players Association got involved. Former players Reggie Smith, Marques Sullivan and Mike Hoban put on hard hats and helped with construction.

From McHenry County alone, L&R Plumbing, T&A Builders, Alexander Lumber, Can Do Carpentry, Astro Insulation, Land Technology, Inc. and Cutting Edge Carpets & Floors pitched in.

“Unemployment is so high in the trades,” Tauke said. “I’m just amazed at how many people who are really making a fraction of what they made a few years ago are still willing to contribute.”

Scott Siman, president of Land Technology of McHenry, said it was an easy decision to donate the site planning and surveying for the project.

“They came to us and told us what the project was all about and we said, ‘yeah, we definitely want to help,’” Siman said. “After what he gave for us, we’ve got to help him. That’s the least we can do.”

The outpouring of support has given Tauke and others on the project hope that they can parlay extra resources into a home for a second veteran.

“It’s something we’re talking about,” she said.

Get more info:
Operation Finally Home is a nonprofit organization that places wounded and disabled veterans or widows of fallen veterans in customized homes. Bisit www.operationfinallyhome.org

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