Builders Give Back: Level Homes helps nonprofit give wounded veteran free house

construction photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Photo by Fancycrave, courtesy of Unsplash

Many home builders construct homes designed for people who are disabled, including military veterans injured while on active duty.

But not many builders construct a home and then give it to a wounded veteran and his family.

That's what Level Homes, a builder with offices in Baton Rouge, La., and Chapel Hill, N.C., set out to do this year.

The home is part of Operation: Coming Home, a joint venture of U.S. Veterans Corps., a nonprofit in Cary, N.C., and the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County in Raleigh.

The builder

When Level Homes was invited in December 2017 to build this year's Hero Home—the seventeenth to be delivered by Operation: Coming Home—the builder quickly said yes, despite having no prior experience managing such a large charitable project.

"We didn't bat an eye," says Jill S. Weaver, Level Homes' marketing manager in Chapel Hill. "We've always wanted to find ways to help within our community."

The builder also supports St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Raleigh and Red Nose Day, an annual event that raises funds for charities that aid children in need.

The Hero Home project was a big commitment for Level Homes. In addition to constructing the home, the builder also agreed to secure the funds for it.

As it turned out, donations of materials and labor from framers, roofers, cabinet makers, flooring installers, and plumbing, electrical and HVAC contractors, among many other trades weren't difficult to get.

"They were 100 percent in," Weaver says. "The majority had participated in Operation: Coming Home via another builder, and in this area, they're so willing to give."

The community developer, 5401 East Development, LLC, donated the home site, which Weaver says was valued at approximately $87,000.

The city of Raleigh reimbursed the building permit fees for the home.

The family

Recipient families for Operation: Coming Home are chosen each year by U.S. Veterans Corps. in a process that includes an application and interview. This year's family is a married couple with three young children.

The husband is U.S. Army Sgt. Anthony Von Canon, who served in Afghanistan, where he suffered back, spine and neck injuries in 2009. Von Canon's wife Arlette was also involved in military service until recently, when she gave birth to the couple's third child.

The selected family was revealed in a live-televised event in December 2017 with representatives of Level Homes and U.S. Veterans Corps. on hand for the surprise.

A live-televised "raising the rafters" event was held in April in lieu of a ground-breaking ceremony because construction of the house had already been started.

The home

The home is located in a new master-planned community called 5401 North. Located approximately eight miles northeast of downtown Raleigh, 5401 North features authentic regional architecture, miles of hiking and biking trails, local public schools and a six-acre vegetable farm and edible landscape provided by a grant to Louisiana State University. When completed, 5401 North will be comprised of 996 homes.

Level Homes' involvement in 5401 North may have been one reason the builder was offered the opportunity to build this year's Hero Home.

"They were in the process of selecting the family," Weaver says. "When we nailed down our commitment and said, 'Yes, we are going to build in 5401 North,' that was when everything happened at once. ’We have the family. We have the community. Here we go.'"

The Von Canons' newly built home includes four bedrooms and a playroom. Accommodations that might be needed due to Von Canon's injuries include an accessible kitchen, wider doorways and a larger shower with a seat.

Coming home

The Hero Home was completed in June.

Volunteers donated some of the furniture and put some finishing touches, such as hanging pictures, on the home. Volunteers also traditionally help the program's recipient family move into their new home.

The nonprofit will own the home for the next six years. The family won't pay rent, but will be responsible for property tax, insurance, homeowner association dues, utilities and maintenance costs, according to Weaver. At the end of six years, the deed will be transferred to the family, provided they still occupy the home.

"After six years, the house is theirs," Weaver says.

The family received the keys to their new home in a televised event July 12.
Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, book editor and blogger whose work has been published by a long list of financial, mortgage and banking websites, trade magazines and newspapers. You can find her on Google+.

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