Volunteers build home in Ross for disabled vet
"It's nice," James Fair said of the Ross home, which was built thanks to an army volunteers, and donations of time and materials from more than 90 companies. "I want the backyard to have a swimming pool and garden."
Fair, 26, is wasting no time in showing gratitude to those who helped build the house. He moves in at the end of the month and plans to have a party within a week for his benefactors
Fair suffered severe wounds in 2003 while stringing barbed wire around an ammunition supply point in Fallujah. He stumbled onto a makeshift enemy bomb, which exploded, and lost his sight and both hands. Shrapnel tore into his right leg, and he suffered a brain injury.
Construction of the four-bedroom home, valued at about $300,000, was organized by Homes For Our Troops, a Taunton, Mass., nonprofit that builds homes for severely injured soldiers.
Fair's home is the group's 26th, and its third in Pennsylvania.
"Days like today are the best part of my job. It's the culmination of a whole lot of effort by a whole lot of people," said Kirt Rebello, the organization's vice president and chief projects officer.
"There are thousands of severely injured soldiers who are not returning to fanfare like this. This really is the least that should be done for them," said Rebello, a third-generation home builder who stopped working at his own company to work for Homes for Our Troops.
Much of the fundraising for the home was organized by Duquesne Light Co., which championed Fair's cause last year at the Pittsburgh Home & Garden show it sponsors.
One anonymous donor last year gave $100,000 toward the effort.
"It's worked out great. This is closer to my work," said Fair's mother, Lonnie Mosco, who manages a supermarket.
About 150 people attended the key presentation ceremony, which was held under a tent because of the threat of rain. A Duquesne Light employee sang the national anthem before a military color guard.
"I am impressed all of this was done by volunteers," said Staff Sgt. Samuel Lorenz, who works at an Army recruiting station in Ross and showed up to show his support.
So did U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless.
"I would not have been anywhere else today," he said.
The home is equipped with voice activated sensors that open doors, turn on lights and flush toilets. Fair says his favorite room is the bathroom, which has a Jacuzzi.
Before the ceremony, Fair sat on a living room couch bantering with his grandmother, Vaunda Barnhart of Chicora.
"I'm probably one of the proudest grandmothers in the world," she said. "This home will give James a lot of inspiration but it won't be a miracle cure. He's already lost a lot."