Oregon's Advantis Credit Union, leading the drive in that state to build two homes for severely injured soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said this week it is now ready to break ground for its second home next weekend and have it ready for occupancy by yearend.
The $720 million Advantis of Milwaukee, said it also was heartened by public and industry support for the Homes for Our Troops cause as evidenced by 300 volunteers who turned out for a "Build Brigade" in Parkdale, a small community near Hood River where the first home is under construction for Staff Sgt. Christian Bagge, who lost both his legs in an ambush in Iraq.
Next weekend Advantis, working with the Massachusetts-based Homes for Our Troops charity, will convene with local dignitaries and volunteers to build the second home in Sandy for Spc. Kevin Pannell, who also lost his legs in a blast in Baghdad in 2004.
"Advantis was founded on the concept of 'people helping people' and its support of Homes for Our Troops underscores the core values of the credit union," said Ron Barrick, president/CEO.
"There is a need for continued support for our injured veterans, and Advantis is honored to bring Homes for Our Troops to Oregon. We invite other Northwest companies to join us in making these builds an ongoing initiative."
Advantis said it first began getting involved with HFOT when several Advantis board members heard an appeal at a 2008 industry conference by John Gonsalves, HFOT founder, asking credit unions to get involved in helping disabled veterans.
Advantis decided "to take this appeal to heart in honoring our military heroes," Barrick said.
At the "Build Brigade" for Staff Sgt. Bagge in Parkdale, CU staffers and other volunteers framed and built a weather-tight exterior in just three days. And since then skilled tradesmen have begun construction on the interior of the home, which will be specially adapated for Bagge. The homes for both Bagge and Pannell are to be completed by yearend and will include amenities such as wheelchair accessible cabinetry, roll-in showers and automatic door openers.
"These features enable the veterans to live more normal lives and increase their personal independence, greatly improving their lives and the lives of their families," Barrick said.