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A fresh start
Local builders join national cause to help veterans

By JEN HUNHOLZ
Photos courtesy of Operation Finally Home

July 2015

Army Sgt. Marco Dominguez and his family visit their new home in Denver, which is being built through the support of Operation Finally Home.

A trip to Las Vegas is not generally described as inspirational, but for Dave Belman of Waukesha-based Belman Homes, it was just that.

Belman was invited to Las Vegas to attend a Kix Brooks concert — an event that doubled as a fundraiser for Operation Finally Home, a nationwide, nonprofit organization dedicated to building homes for wounded, ill or injured veterans and their families. The event’s keynote speaker was Sgt. Stephen Jackel, a father of six who was severely injured in combat. Jackel was driving back from a mission when his vehicle ran over an IED (improvised explosive device). The explosion engulfed the vehicle’s ammunition in flames, and despite his legs being crushed, Jackel used his strength to put out the fire. His courageous act of bravery saved everyone inside.

"You talk about a real American hero — that’s this guy," says Belman. "He laid his life on the line for his country." Hearing Jackel’s story inspired Belman to act. "I knew about the program (Operation Finally Home), and I was like, ‘If they want to do it in Wisconsin, I have to do this.’ I jumped in right away," he recalls.

Meanwhile, Tim O’Brien, president of Tim O’Brien Homes in Pewaukee, was following a similar path. "When I learned of Operation Finally Home, I approached the gentleman who was looking for participation, and I said, ‘Count us in,’" says O’Brien. "It aligns well with who we are as an organization — our culture, our core values and our team. One of our core values is ‘embrace social responsibility,’ and this is a great opportunity to give back within the community we work in and to use our industry experience."

Belman and O’Brien teamed up to bring Operation Finally Home to Wisconsin, and the duo will break ground on two homes in the Village of Jackson this fall. They’ve reached out to their vendors and contractors for donated materials and labor, and O’Brien says the response has been "phenomenal." "It’s been amazing how generous and supportive the trades have been for this program," adds Belman. Both the Metropolitan Builders Association and the Wisconsin Builders Association are also supporting the cause.

"What we’re doing as an industry is giving them (the veterans) a fresh start. To get back on track, with their career and their families," says O’Brien. "We want to take the housing equation out of their way — that’s one of the bigger obstacles for people coming back (from war). We hope to give their families a fresh start, too."

To donate to Operation Finally Home or to learn more, visit operationfinallyhome.org/wisconsin. Excess funds will go toward furnishing and accessorizing the homes. "The more we raise, the better we can take care of them," says Belman. "That’s the goal — to deliver the homes and to take care of these families." M

 

 












 


This story ran in the July 2015 issue of: