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When the opportunity arose to build a home for a Marine suffering from debilitating head injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder after two tours of duty in Iraq, members of the NAHB Building Systems Councils (BSC) did not hesitate.
The manufacturers, suppliers, builders and other industry professionals in the concrete, log, modular and panelized home building industries decided to pitch in to design and build a 3,000-square-foot custom log home for Staff Sgt. Vincent Gizzareli and his wife, Jamie, near Camp Lejeune, N.C. — the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast.
One member even donated the lot.
The surprise for the war veteran was sprung during an episode of the nationally syndicated radio show, “The Big Show With John Boy and Billy,” which aired on Monday, Jan. 27.
The Gizzarellis were invited to appear on the show under a false pretense. The other guests — volunteers from the BSC and Operation Finally Home created by the Bay Area Builders Association, which with the help of partners like the BSC provides home sites and builds custom homes for wounded veterans — were there to spring the surprise.
When they revealed their plans to give the couple a mortgage-free new home during the show, the Gizzarellis were overcome with emotion and gratitude.
"I’m in shock right now," said Jamie Gizzareli through tears of joy. "I’m so excited. It’s just a wish come true. We can’t be thankful enough."
While Gizzarelli’s service and injuries were the primary reasons Operation Finally Home selected him to receive a new home, what may have tipped the scales in hisfavor was the desire to raise three young foster children whom he and his wife are now trying to adopt.
The Gizzarellis’ log home package is being provided by Log Homes of America, a North Carolina-based company owned and operated by Nicole and Joel Robinson.
Nicole Robinson, Operation Finally Home Executive Director Daniel Vargas and BSC Associates Council Chair Roger Nelson of Andersen Windows are spearheading the coordination of the project.
“Joel and I are honored to be able to help Operation Finally Home on this project,” Nicole Robinson said. “Our contributions are small considering the sacrifices made by our military personnel and their families.”
“Our servicemen and women have sworn an oath to protect us — to give us the freedoms we enjoy and let us live the lives we lead,” said Vargas. “They and their families sacrifice everything. It’s very gratifying to give them a home. We look at it as a ‘hand up,’ not a handout. They’ve paid for these homes on the battlefield.”
The property was donated by third-generation home builders Martin and Lori Aragona of Marlo Construction, developers of Aragona Village, where the home site is located. Martin Aragona also is donating his time as the general contractor on site.
“In our location near Camp Lejeune, many of the homes we’ve built have been for members of the Marine Corps — that’s how we’ve built our business,” Martin Aragona said. “Lori and I feel it’s not only a great honor to give back to a vet who needs assistance, it’s our duty.”
Aragona was quick to point out that builders and suppliers do not need to make a huge donation, like a lot or large monetary or materials contribution, to make a big difference when building homes for veterans. “Time and labor are just as important as money and materials,” he said.
In addition to Andersen Windows, other BSC members and industry professionals that have pledged their assistance in the project include Hearthstone Inc., Shelter Systems Limited, Sashco Inc., Wayne Dalton, Mariotti Building Products, Jeld-Wen, Ply-Gem, Perma-Chink Systems Inc., HandCrafted Homes and Barvista Building Systems.
Other member companies throughout NAHB also are invited to donate materials or make financial contributions to the Gizzarelli family by visiting www.nahb.org/buildingsystemsforsoldiers. A preliminary floor plan, a materials list, project updates, photos and more will be posted on the site as the project progresses.
“Our contributions show our veterans that America cares,” said Vargas.