It seems one of the more troubling stories of a rough 2011 will have a happy ending.
Homes for Our Troops announced this past week that a Build Brigade will start construction at the end of January on a new home for paralyzed U.S. Army veteran Sean Gittens and his family.
After what a Homes for Our Troops spokesman calls a “ceremonial kick-off” on Jan. 27, a swarm of mostly volunteers will erect a 2,700-square-foot, handicapped-accessible home for the Gittens family on a lot on Tubman Road in Appling.
“The goal for the remainder of the weekend is for the home to be secured and a weather-tight shell put up,” Jennifer Fiorentino told reporter Valerie Rowell, with finishing touches to follow.
That’s outstanding news, from a great organization, on behalf of an American hero. But this story won’t be complete without making sure the failure of the previous attempt at building Gittens a home doesn’t go down in the history books as a slur on his former neighborhood.
Last June, HFOT was set to mobilize its “build brigade” for Gittens on a lot in Knob Hill, where the family already lives.
Unfortunately, the otherwise well-meaning HFOT jumped the gun, attempting to start construction on the lot in Knob Hill’s estate section without securing final approval for its plans from the Knob Hill Homeowners Association. The organization tried to bulldoze the HOA’s objections, and when it seemed Homes for Our Troops intended to plow ahead and ignore the rules, the HOA was forced to file a cease-and-desist order.
Already flirting with brinksmanship, HFOT then pulled the patriotism card. Its leader took a backhanded swipe at Knob Hill, accusing the community of stopping the project because of a bad attitude about veterans.
That uncalled-for slam, unfortunately, struck a nerve with a lot of people – as the HFOT leader undoubtedly knew it would.
Rather than back down in the face of intimidation, the Knob Hill leaders stuck to their guns. They were more than happy to work with HFOT, they said, but more importantly they were bound to make sure the rules of their community are followed on any project. HFOT tried to bully them into accepting a project that wouldn’t fit the requirements of the neighborhood’s estate section, but the HOA stood firm.
Sadly, the project stopped there, and left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths – and a wholly unfair impression of Knob Hill. Fortunately, with the donation of a new lot in an area where the HFOT’s plans won’t be a problem, the Gittens family will get the home they deserve.
It’s clear in the wake of this good news, however, that some people with dim memories still think the Knob Hill leaders were in the wrong in last June’s dustup. They weren’t.
All that should soon clear up. Congratulations to the Gittens family, and to HFOT for appropriately moving forward.