DC Habitat Launches Homes for Vets Campaign at ‘Build on the Mall’ Event.

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The “primary house” was completed on the National Mall June 2nd.

The sun shone the morning of June 2nd, on a wooden foundation lying at the foot of the Washington Monument. This foundation would become the primary house (also called “hero house”) and would be the first of seven frames built on the National Mall during a week-long AmeriCorps build-a-thon named Veterans Build on the Mall. The seven homes built would symbolize each branch of the military, coast guard, and national service.

Of the five AmeriCorps build-a-thons held across the nation, this one was special in that it was held to raise awareness of important opportunities offered through Habitat’s Veterans Build and Repair Corps programs. The programs aim to support and honor existing and retired military members and their families by offering affordable housing options, critical repair solutions and opportunities for volunteering, leadership and employment. Part of the Veterans Build initiative is the Repair Corps program, funded by The Home Depot Foundation, which offers critical home repairs such as wheelchair ramps, wider doorways and structural improvements to U.S. military veterans.

Throughout the morning, AmeriCorps member, veterans, Home Depot, and Bank of America volunteers worked steadfast to build and raise the walls on the home. Undeterred by the threat of rain, volunteers had nearly completed all but the roof by the opening ceremony. During the lunch time speaking program, the construction crew was joined by prominent speakers who praised Habitat for Humanity for its initiative to support, employ, and partner with veterans, as well as its dedication to national service.

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Wendy Spencer speaks at the Veterans Build on the Mall opening ceremony.

“The commitment to veterans and their families is two-fold: we serve them, and we ask them to serve with us,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service during the ceremony. “Each year, national service programs reach more than 1.5 million veterans and military family members, and more than 27,000 veterans put their unique skills to work on a new mission on the homefront. National Service is honored to join Habitat for Humanity to serve in honor of those who serve us and we are proud that AmeriCorps members working with Habitat for Humanity are part of this service to veterans on the National Mall.”

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David Burja (right), construction supervisor, and Dave Guttman (left), director of construction, both from Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna, help to raise the American flag.

Following lunch, volunteers returned to the hero house, erecting its roof and raising the American flag above the front door. Over the course of the next three days, six more house frames were built on either side of the primary house. In addition to the frames, ramps were constructed so that wheelchair-bound vets would be able to access these new homes.

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DC Habitat President & CEO Susanne Slater introduces Ken Harris at the closing ceremony.

Following a closing ceremony on June 5th, the house frames were dismantled and shipped from the National Mall to permanent sites. Three of those frames are staying here in Washington, where they will be fully constructed at a site in Northeast DC.  They will become Phase I of a multi-year campaign – the Homes for Vets Campaign — to get local veterans into affordable homes.

DC Habitat hosted a Homes for Vets Campaign Kickoff Reception at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Atrium on the evening of June 4th. More than 125 attendees took part in a cocktail reception followed by a speaking program. Congressional leaders, corporate sponsors, Washington, DC City officials, and military officers praised Habitat’s work and spoke in support of our campaign to provide affordable housing for veterans in our nation’s capital.

DC Habitat is actively recruiting corporate sponsors and volunteers to support its veterans’ homes. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please email Heather Phibbs, Director of Marketing and Development, at heather.phibbs@dchabitat.org. Veterans interested in becoming DC Habitat homeowners may call our office at 202-882-4600 to learn more about the program.