Rain Delays Work On Marine's House
COVENTRY - Framing a house often takes one or two weeks. Adding the roof might take a few more days. Siding? Perhaps another week.
If enough workers pitch in, though, and the weather cooperates, all that work can be done in a day.
Early Friday, dozens of volunteers gathered for what was to have been a nonstop, marathon effort to build the shell of a house for Sgt. Brian Johnston, a Marine from East Hartford who lost his right arm and right leg while fighting in Iraq.
Alas, only about a quarter of the job was finished before work was called off about 1 p.m. because of heavy rain.
"The weather killed us," said Kirt Rebello, of Massachusetts-based Homes for Our Troops, which is overseeing the project.
Rebello said work would resume today and added that skilled tradesmen are needed.
Steve Zocco, a builder from Tolland who is the project's general contractor, said he has been amazed by the willingness of workers to volunteer.
"It's been phenomenal," Zocco said. "It's a great cause, and Brian's a great guy with great spirit, who really appreciates what's happening for him."
Some site work had been done and the foundation had been installed before Friday, which started promisingly as workers constructed the floor and put up most of the exterior walls.
At times during the morning, 20 workers were within the footprint of the house, deftly moving around one another as they measured, sawed and hammered.
By lunch, though, rain had picked up and the pace had slowed.
Homes for Our Troops, which was founded in 2004, has completed 15 projects nationally and has 20 more under way. The group solicits donations of labor and material so that work can be done at no cost to injured service members.
Three times, the organization has worked with the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" television show on accelerated construction projects. For example, during seven days in 2005 they collaborated to tear down and then rebuild a house - with appropriate modifications - for an Army sergeant from Tennessee who had been maimed in Iraq.
The Johnston timeline is more modest, according to Rebello, who said that the building blitz will end once the outside of the structure is completed.
"Then everybody else can come in and do their jobs and not worry about the weather," he said, referring to plumbers, electricians and others.
Johnston, who is co-owner of a garden supply company in Rhode Island, took the day off so he could watch his house be built.
An East Hartford native, he has been living with friends in Ellington since being discharged last summer after about 20 months of hospitalization.
He said he has been told he might be able to move in to his new house by the end of the year.
"I'm grateful," said Johnston.