Making a house a soldier’s home
Soon the sergeant and his wife, Sara, who both grew up in northern Burlington County, will begin a new phase in their lives when they move into a handicapped-accessible house in Florence that is being built with the help of several businesses and organizations, including the not-for-profit organization Homes for Our Troops.
On June 11, dozens of friends, family members and community members attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the house where the Robinsons will soon be residing on East Fifth Street.
In June 2006, Sgt. Robinson was serving his second tour in the Al Anbar Province in Iraq as a counterintelligence specialist, and was embarking on a mission to collect information on insurgents responsible for killing American troops.
When Sgt. Robinson's convoy was struck, he sustained broken legs, collapsed lungs and fractured vertebrae that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He now uses a wheelchair.
Sgt. Robinson is originally from North Hanover, and his wife is from the Roebling area. The Robinsons are now residing in southern California, near the Marine Corps base camp were he was stationed before being deployed.
Kirt Rebello, vice president and chief project manager for Homes for Troops, said the ranch style-house should be finished by December, mainly because "we have some good people involved," he said of the numerous volunteers and contractors working to make the house a home.
This is the third house the organization will build in New Jersey, and will feature state-of-the-art technology throughout to make Sgt. Robinson and his wife as comfortable as possible.
Some conveniences include recessed floor joints that allow space for a wheelchair without having a lot of ramps throughout the house, as well as automatic door openers, a roll-in shower, and a overhead lift system that is able to lift someone out of bed and out of the bathtub.
He said that the organization finances the construction of the homes through donations and volunteer work of various companies and will be hosting a "Build Brigade" slated for mid-July that will have volunteers take the bare foundation to a standing weather-tight structure in a few days.
"Basically it will be like a mini "Extreme Makeover Home Edition," said Mr. Rebello.
The general contractor for the project, Kojeski Construction, of Voorhees, will donate its services to give guidance to the project.
The Homes organization will also be working with an organization called HEART 9/11, a group of veteran police officers and firefighters who survived the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 to supply added laborers.
Any additional costs for appliances or other building materials will be subsidized through funds raised from Homes for Troops, added Mr. Rebello.
Anyone interested in volunteering to help build the house, or donate money or materials can visit the organization's Web site, homesforourtroops.org.