Brigade Called Out Today
Call it Extreme Makeover: Marcellus Hero Edition.
Volunteers have been working around the clock this month to build a home for wounded Army medic Sgt. Jeff Guerin, 25, a Marcellus native who was blinded and suffered severe leg injuries in 2004 in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.
An organization called Homes for Our Troops is building a home adapted for his disabilities on a 1.2-acre vacant lot at 2725 Abounding Way.
Hundreds of volunteers and workers from Pigliavento Builders, the company donating its services as general contractor, have been working so well that the project is way ahead of schedule. Within two weeks of breaking ground on July 30, the home's foundation and roofing were complete. It took volunteers two 14-hour days to frame the building. And putting up the siding which builders anticipated would be a three-day job only took a few hours Friday because of a dozen skilled volunteers onsite.
When finished, the three-bedroom, two-bath home will have an open floor plan, said contractor Jack Scalice of Pigliavento Builders. The one-story ranch home was designed with hallways and doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, an elevator to ride to the basement, a roll-in shower, voice-activated heating and alarm systems, motion-activated faucets and an enclosed aquatherapy pool.
Usually it takes Scalice three to four months to build a house from the ground up. He plans to complete Guerin's house in two a record for Homes for Our Troops.
Their hope to hand Guerin the keys in October will be helped by a building brigade scheduled to take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.
"A lot of them are leaving here to go to work," said Scalice's wife, Lisa, of the unpaid helpers. "At dark, we have people still working. It's unbelievable."
Jack Scalice said he didn't think twice when he got the call from Homes for Our Troops.
"I didn't even question it," he said. "It was something I'd love to do. And everybody's really been pitching in. I've been very impressed."
Guerin's mother, local realtor Colleen Guerin, has been at the site most days with Scalice's wife, Lisa, to help feed the volunteers and offer support. She said the entire experience has been overwhelming, noting that she was reduced to tears watching Sheetrock being loaded into the house. "It feels like a dream," she said. "Since he was injured, this whole thing has been a fog. This is part of the fog, but it's a good part.
"There's the little angels, all in jeans with hammers," she continued.
Jeff Guerin is living with his parents, about a mile from the work site. He can only stand on his leg for about an hour a day, which he spreads out in 10-minute intervals to promote bone growth that he hopes will keep doctors from amputating his left leg. At points in his treatment, he has had to take a cocktail of more than 15 pills a day to stem the pain.
"He will get so much of his independence back," Colleen Guerin said of the house. "There's no words to describe what this will do for him."
The generosity of Central New Yorkers won't just help Guerin. Homes for Our Troops pays for the projects by soliciting corporations and the public for donations of construction services, goods and money. Because of the outpouring of local support, what they don't have to pay for in Marcellus can be used to help others.
"It means there's more money for the next soldier, that they can tell another one, 'Yes,' " Colleen Guerin said. "This is helping so many other people.
"It's extreme all right," she continued. "How could this even be possible?"
Homes for Our Troops has completed 29 homes "from Massachusetts to California and Michigan to Texas," said project manager Brian Reed, a semi-retired builder from Massachusetts. There are 26 more projects in the works.
"He's a good kid, with a great disposition," Reed said of Jeff Guerin. "It's a real joy to build a house for him."