Connecticut Town Unites in Support of Injured Afghanistan Veteran

May 14, 2012

by Elisha Harig-Blaine

On June 23, city officials and hundreds of volunteers from Glastonbury, Conn., will celebrate the opening of Manny's Place, a newly constructed home for disabled Afghanistan veteran, Marine Corps Corporal Manny Jimenez. Constructed on land donated by the town, the effort was driven by leadership from the town manager and council, the Rotary Club and Purple Heart Homes. 

With the support of The Home Depot Foundation, NLC is analyzing and documenting community responses, such as this one in Glastonbury, to meet the housing needs of disabled veterans and will be facilitating conversations about the resources available and successful strategies to meet this growing need.

In 2006, Glastonbury's Marine Corps League building burned down. As the town manager and council held discussions about what to do with the property, there was consensus that the property should continue to be used to serve veterans. After hearing about the work of Purple Heart Homes, Glastonbury Town Manager Richard J. Johnson got in touch with the organization to discuss a potential partnership.

Purple Heart Homes was founded in 2008 by John Gallina and Dale Beatty, both combat wounded National Guard veterans of the Iraq war. The mission of Purple Heart Homes is to help provide personalized housing solutions for service-connected disabled veterans and their families. The needs of each veteran are different, but in all cases Purple Heart Homes provides an injury-specific, barrier-free living environment at little or no cost to the veteran. These solutions can range from remodeling an existing home already owned by the veteran, to creating a new home from the ground up.

After engaging in promising conversations with Johnson, Gallina, on behalf of Purple Heart Homes, spoke with the town's Rotary Club about the project and the needs of Cpl. Jimenez. The Rotary partnered with Purple Heart Homes as a community service project and began arranging materials and volunteers.

As word of the project spread, interest grew, and the Rotary quickly realized its best role would be to act as the project's coordinating agent. Rotary leaders developed task-specific committees to coordinate the project's needs on areas including architectural plans, engineering, foundation work, framing, roofing, siding, windows and doors, insulation, plumbing and electrical work, paving, drywall, painting and landscaping.

Nearly 400 volunteers worked on the project during its development, including locally competitive electrical and plumbing companies, the town's garden club and a group of New York City first-responders from the organization H.E.A.R.T. 9/11. Purple Heart Homes contributed approximately $30,000 to pay for materials such as lumber, drywall and concrete.

As the project moved forward, the town and Purple Heart Homes reached agreement about how to provide the land for Cpl. Jimenez's new home in a way that also protected the town's future fiduciary interests. The town formally conveyed the property to Purple Heart Homes in November 2011 for $1. The town and Purple Heart Homes agreed the property should not receive preferential treatment. The property was already zoned for residential use, permits were applied and paid for without preference (at an additional cost of about $4,000) and inspections occurred in turn. Once the project is completed in June 2012, Purple Heart Homes will sell the land and structure to Cpl. Jimenez for $1.

All normal property taxes will remain applicable and become the responsibility of Cpl. Jimenez, so architects worked to keep the home's assessed value as low as possible, while ensuring the home met community building standards and Cpl. Jimenez's accessibility needs. To accomplish this, architects left the home's basement unfinished, kept the square footage as compact as possible, and did not build in attic space or a spare room over the garage. Additionally, building materials and design elements such as stone veneer and arched windows were used to maintain costs while giving the perception of a more expensive property.

The project is the first new construction project for Purple Heart Homes, with other projects currently in development in Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and another project in Connecticut.

"It is amazing how the town came together to help with this project. Everyone wanted to be a part of it and whatever you need, people are there for you," said Cpl. Jimenez.

"Through their work on the home for Cpl. Jimenez, the people of Glastonbury not only affected Manny's life, but they have established themselves as the model community that all others will be measured against," said John Gallina, co-founder of Purple Heart Homes.

Details: For more information about NLC's work on housing for veterans with disabilities, visit /find-city-solutions/research-innovation/housing-community-development/housing-rehabilitation-for-veterans-with-disabilities, or contact Elisha Harig-Blaine at harig-blaine@nlc.org, or (202) 626-3005.