Veterans and families of veterans came together to help fix a fellow vet's home

The sound of nails being hammered and holes being drilled rolled over Norene Griffin’s west Dover neighborhood last week as more than a dozen people worked to restore her 60-year old Ann Avenue home.

This group of carpenters were military veterans or veterans’ families, brought together by a desire to help another veteran. Griffin had been honorably discharged from the Delaware National Guard following an injury during training.

The work on Griffin’s home by the Travis Manion Foundation and the Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity’s Brush with Kindness program.

It was a perfect confluence of needs, Habitat Executive Director Jonathan Gallo said.

“Mrs. Griffin contacted us about needed exterior work completed on her home due to it being out of compliance with city codes,” Gallo said. “Travis Manion wanted to help out a veteran and she was a veteran needing help.”

The Travis Manion Foundation was founded in 2007 by the late Janet Manion in honor of her son, a U.S. Marine Corps first lieutenant killed that year in Iraq. The foundation’s goal is to support veterans and their families through service projects. Funding was provided by Thrivent Financial.

The support came just in time for Griffin and her husband, Leroy. She grew up in the home her mother, Alma Robinson, built in the 1950s. The home was one of the first built in the area, Griffin said.

But her mother’s 2002 death and her own health problems made it difficult to keep up with maintenance and soon she was being contacted by Dover building code inspectors, she said. A termite infestation undermined part of the home and asbestos shingles covering the outside were falling off, she said. Some windows were leaking.

She and her husband could not afford many of the necessary upgrades and they failed to qualify for other programs to help bring the property up to code.

“I’d been struggling the best I could,” Griffin said. “It seemed like whenever I got something going, something else would get in the way.”

Coincidentally, she and the Manion Foundation contacted Habitat at about the same time; within days arrangements were being made to buy supplies and bring them to the Ann Avenue address.

“It was a real weight off my shoulders,” Griffin said.

Like a family

“This project brings people together with the focus of helping homeowners in need of affordable repairs to their homes,” Gallo said. It took about a week to complete the repairs at a cost of about $2,500, he said.

Everyone working on the house has lost a family member in the military, said Hugo Lentze, foundation regional manager. It’s called a survivor’s expedition because working together is a means of finding a way to heal, he said.

“It gives us the chance to come together and relax a bit because we all share similar stories,” Lentze said. “The foundation is very much about service and this helps the survivors in their healing process.”

Two men putting fresh wooden framing and metal facing around some windows share that story, although they’d never met before 2007.

U.S. Army Sgt. Ashly Lynn Moyer was 21 when she was killed by a roadside bomb March 3, 2007, in Iraq. Her fiancé, Spec. Jake Wells, was near the Humvee when it exploded.

Wells, now a civilian, was working with Moyer’s father, Michael.

Just a few days before her death, his daughter excitedly talked about having Wells meet her family, Moyer said.

“She didn’t know Jake was going to ask her to marry him,” Moyer said.

The two men met for the first time at Moyer’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery but didn’t get to know each other right away.

“Now we’re like family,” Wells said.

“I consider him like a son,” Moyer said. The two often travel between Wells’ Texas home and Moyer’s home in Pennsylvania for get-togethers and to work on service projects for fellow veterans. They’ve traveled together to help build a home on Guatemala.

Over the week, more than two dozen people including volunteers from Dover Air Force Base and NASCAR drivers Michael McDowell and John Nemecheck pitched in to help, Gallo said.

“It was so wonderful, so many people turned out,” Griffin said. There’s a little more touching up to do, but the task is complete, she added.

“Oh my God,” she said. “I’ve never had anything this wonderful happen to me. It was the answer to a prayer.”