So many of you are aware of our journey. Many of you have followed us through our ups and downs. Many of you are aware Chaz retired from the Army in January. We are finally moving forward with our lives, but we now need your help and perhaps help from a few of your friends or even friends of friends or golf buddies, gym friends, heck, who am I kidding, all of the above.
August 1, 2007, Chaz and I sold our first home and purchased a cute two story 1800 sq ft home within 15 minutes of Fort Campbell. We were able to mortgage our home for only $142,000 because it needed a lot of work done to it.
Chaz was at the NCO Academy at the time. He worked 15 days on, 4 days off for those first 2 years we were in our current home. During this time the girls were 2 and 5. I spent a lot of time at home with them. I took it upon myself to pull up all the carpet and lay the hardwood laminate. I tiled on the back splash in the kitchen. I changed all the light fixtures and door knobs and my honey done list goes on and on. You can for sure say we know the hard work involved in home ownership. But this was our home and I loved putting all the sweat equity into it.
The day Chaz was injured, I found myself in a trance walking around the house trying to figure out how he would get around our cute little two story colonial home that we both really liked. I knew there would be a lot of obstacles in his way. I remember someone asking me what I was doing walking around in my trance. I told them I was planning for Chaz to come home. I remember someone saying, "We've got time for that." I also remember snapping and saying, "I need a distraction, ok?!" At that moment I was waiting hours between phone calls with updates on Chaz's condition. I desperately needed to focus on something. That night I just cried because I knew this house was no longer suitable for our family. I knew we'd have to move out to move on with our lives. I loved this house because we had put so much time and effort into it. But I knew in order for our family to move on and live happily ever after a new house would have to be built.
In May 2011, we made plans to bring Chaz home for the first time. I was amazed at all the people who wanted to help. We were blessed by a cleaning crew for both inside and out. CSM St Louis had our ramp installed at the front door. Chaz's Nurse Case Manager, Colonel Crum, had all of his adaptive equipment sent in front of us. The day after we arrived home Colonel Crum called to see what we needed. I told him lifting Chaz's chair up and down our stairs was interesting. Crum ordered me a wheel chair for the upstairs. Crum worried about me getting hurt carrying the chair up and down the stairs everyday twice a day. (Funny story, I got hurt a few times before that chair arrived.)
Fast forward to now. We are still here. We love this house. Chaz's jokes all the time about how he lives in a "Cripple's Nightmare." It's so true. All of our bedrooms and full bathrooms are upstairs. Chaz either walks or scoots down the stairs once he is up and showered for the day. He spends his day on the lower level. On our bottom level he bumps into transitions that are between the rooms. He has to use a kitchen chair to transfer onto the toilet because normal adaptive devices don't fit into the "toilet closet" (as he refers to it). If they do fit, the bench is not wide enough to support him. (Remember he's a big boy.) He cannot reach anything in the cabinets because they are too high. The sink is also too high and then too deep, so when he helps me wash the dishes he gets a pretty good wash himself. He cannot go into the back yard to play with our girls. The back door leads to a deck that has a big step down and the 3 steps down to get to the yard. He also cannot get to the back through the gate because of the hill on the side and then the ground itself. Basically Chaz is trapped in his house and is dependent on the girls and I to make it accessible for him as he needs. Let me assure you, I have done everything I can think of to make this house work for him for now. Due to his recent bout of shingles and then the back surgery, Chaz is having a hard time wearing his legs. So if he can't access it by wheeling or scooting it "ain't happening". Which means this house is even worse for him right now.
So what have we done about all of this? First we contacted a non-profit for help. Helping A Hero has agreed to help us. You can learn more about them at http://www.helpingahero.org/ Chaz and I are putting in a $50,000 mortgage and his $64,000 grant from the VA. Helping A Hero has pledged another $100,000. So we have $214,000 to start with. It's one heck of a start, but we'll need more.
Chaz's adaptive bathroom costs $40,000 minimum and seriously that's just for basic needs. Chaz needs special doorways, lower cabinets and so on. When you start looking it all it is so intimidating. The book from the VA is about 100 pages thick. We have to complete all the tasks in the book in order to receive the $64,000. No, I am not kidding. Hello it's the government, they don't just write checks without hoops. I will say our SAH (special adaptive housing) Representative has been awesome. He has gone the extra mile to help ensure we check all those boxes. Here's a link to the FAQ sheet on the VA SAH grant so you can learn more. http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/documents/docs/part1_va_pamphlet_26_jrd_edits_doc.pdf Question 13 (begins on page 4) lists the most important things that must be done for Chaz to receive the grant. Please remember this is just the cliff notes version of the SAH grant.
Donna Campbell, our realtor (and my 3rd and 4th grade music teacher), helped kick off our journey to our Happily Ever After when she helped us get our land in McMinnville, Tennessee. Our builder is Elaine Rains Construction and she has been a huge advocate for us. County Commissioner John Pelham held a meeting and got the county to wave all the charges for the fees and permits. Elaine just has to file the papers for us.
We are getting there, but we need still everything from shelves to shingles from HVAC to hardware from plumping to pipes. So a few friends are trying to help us out. You can visit http://www.ourheroshomecoming.com/ or http://www.gofundme.com/NEVER-QUIT to see what they are doing for us. Operation Ward 57 has gotten involved in another way too. https://www.niceshirt.org/campaigns/index.php/military/opward57/chaz-allen.html So you can see you have multiple ways of getting involved. It's quite awesome!!
So how can you help?! You see the links above. Of course money is always the easy answer, but we need supplies and labor too. Do you know someone who would donate shingles or roofing supplies? Do you know someone who would donate flooring? Do you know a professional who would volunteer or deeply discount their time to help us? We need it all.
Don't think you can help. $5 buys those electrical plate covers. $5 buys a few tiles. We can make $5 go somewhere, trust me. We will be thankful for any and everything.
Chaz's house will cost around $300,000 minimum. This figure is excluding the land cost. I know a few have questioned the cost. I can assure you we took the plans we were given and with the advice of our builder, we looked for every way to save money and cut costs. We lowered the ceilings, opted to not put in a fireplace, removed decorative pitches from the roof and a few other little things that will save money. In addition, we have 10 boxes of tile, a shower system and a ceiling fan that I found when cleaning our garage that will be put into the new home.
A few people have said to build up, not out. Keep in mind if we were to build up then Chaz would need an elevator to access the entire house. An elevator would be expensive to put in and I cannot imagine the maintenance bill on that. We realize it is cheaper to build up, rather than build out in a normal situation. However this house is for Chaz and he needs it to be able to fully accessible to everything. So we need to build out not up.
I know a few have disagreed with Chaz having a house bigger than we currently own. I invite the critics to please come visit our current home and follow Chaz around for a day. Watch him have to sit at the back door and watch his girls play because he can't get to his back yard. Watch him pull himself or walk up the ramp to get inside. Watch him roll over the transitions and try to not fall out of his chair onto the tile in the kitchen. I have to laugh at the critics who see the cost and think Chaz is getting some elaborate mansion. We are seriously going with only Chaz's needs and that is the proposed cost with all of his needs factored in. We are not building a home for an average "leg walker." We are building a forever home for a wounded Hero. Please keep that in mind when you are criticizing what we are doing. Please also know we have the plans that have been and will be used in other homes for other Heroes. Please keep in mind that our home is within the standards of many, many other Heroes and their homes. Heck we took a few frills out just to save money and still the critics come. We can happily provide links to the other heroes who are in the same situation and also need your help.
Please consider what you can do to help families like ours heal and move on with our Happily Ever After. Every little bit helps and most importantly pray that we can get all this done sooner than later. THANK YOU!!!!