(pictured above: The future homes for veterans on Cameron Avenue.)
Wells Fargo Bank pitched in money and manpower Friday to help convert dilapidated houses on Cameron Avenue into affordable units for military veterans.
Whole Man Ministries is behind the Homes 4 Our Heroes project. Five houses were slated to be demolished by the city before the Ministries proposed the project, which will cost $631,000.
The rain on Friday morning didn’t discourage 18 Wells Fargo employees from aiding renovation efforts at three of the houses. The bank also presented Whole Man Pastor Barry Washington with a $15,000 check to help the project along. Washington said the help was appreciated since the interiors of the houses had to be completely gutted and rebuilt.
“They had to be remodeled from the top to the bottom – new roofs, attics. We had to put a whole new floor system down there with treated wood; we had to replace all that,” he said. “We had to take out all the lead that was in there. We basically had to take it all the way down to the studs.”
Three of the five houses will be designated for homeless veterans. Each house will feature two units. All six units will have a bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen and laundry room.
The other two will be two-bedroom homes for low income families. The City is helping to fund these two units with more than $200,000 in loans and grants.
The project has largely depended on volunteer workers and generous donors like Wells Fargo. Home Depot also recently gave $15,000, and a benefit 5k run in une raised another $13,000.
Individuals and groups of volunteers from places like Forsyth Technical Community College, Nehemiah’s Few Ministry of Triad Baptist Church, BB&T, Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Gwyn Electric have pitched in with the renovations.
General Contractor Devon Scott of Scott’s Ltd, Inc. leads the volunteers. Though he has 15 years’ experience, he said rehabbing more than 70-year-old former shotgun houses poses some challenges; yet, he expects the first house could be completed in a matter of weeks.
“There’s nothing more gratifying than to know that a veteran that served our country is going to have a place to stay, a place to call home,” he said. “After serving our country, the least thing that we can do is serve them and help them.”
Wells Fargo employees who are part of the bank’s local Veterans Team have been regular volunteers. The bank has a variety of teams for employees with shared interests and backgrounds. Black/African-American Connect and the PRIDETeam – for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees – are among the bank’s other teams. The Veterans Team is among the largest, with 7,000 members nationwide.
John Dzierzewski, a network engineer who leads the 40-member local Wells Fargo Veterans Team chapter, said the team has helped Homes 4 Our Heroes contributed 110 hours to the project so far.
“We started at the end of May and we’re not stopping,” said Dzierzewsk, a retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer. “I’ll continue this probably until all six (veterans units) are done.”
But most of last week’s volunteers work in the Business Banking division. They used the experience as a team-building exercise.
“We live and we work in this community, too, and we appreciate our veterans and think they deserve the very best we can give them. We’re delighted to be out here, doing anything we can to help out with our hands,” said Steve Koelsch, a regional business banking manager and a member of the Triad West Wells Fargo Foundation Committee that awards money to charitable projects such as Home 4 Our Heroes.
The tentative goal for the completion of the entire project is Veteran’s Day – Nov. 11.
To donate or learn more about the project, visit wholemanministries.com/veterans.