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Piedmont family first to benefit from Habitat program for veterans

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Jester family home

Jeremy Jester, center, says some words of thanks. Habitat for Humanity broke ground on its first-ever “veterans home build” in Piedmont on Wednesday. The house will be home to the Jester family.

PIEDMONT — Four-year-old Wyatt Jester has been talking non-stop about building his new home, according to his parents, Jeremy and Elizabeth.

That new home is coming to the family thanks to a national program called Veterans Build, working with Calhoun County’s Habitat for Humanity organization. The program organizes veterans and other groups to construct homes for veterans in the community.

Habitat for Humanity has built and repaired more than 800,000 homes for families in need around the world since 1968. Habitat’s Veterans Build program has been building homes for veterans since 2012.

U.S. Army Reserve veteran Jeremy Jester and his family were chosen this past summer for this first Veterans Build project in the county. The Jesters currently live in an apartment in Piedmont and have moved multiple times since Jeremy’s two deployments to Iraq and Kuwait.

“I’m just thankful that we’re finally going to get a place that is stable and permanent,” he said Wednesday.

The couple chose Piedmont for their home to be within a mile of Elizabeth’s mother. She said her family has been to the lot several times over the last two weeks cleaning debris and cutting some of the smaller trees. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Wednesday afternoon.

The executive director of the Calhoun County Habitat for Humanity, Amanda Pinson, said this idea began in the county about a year ago with a phone call from a former Habitat board member.

“We were contacted by Jim Robbins, who is the main sponsor of the build, because he wanted to build a house for a veteran,” she said. “After that I went to my board of directors and they all agreed.”

Pinson said these homes take around nine months to complete and cost around $75,000 to construct. The full amount has been gathered for this particular project, thanks in part to Robbins’ contribution of 25 percent of the cost. The family being helped will contribute a portion of the construction labor, as is Habitat policy. She said local veterans will be encouraged to help construct the home. In March a group of college students from Minnesota will travel south to help with construction.

“I’m not sure why it took us so long to come up with this,” Robbins said. “Maybe it was God speaking to us, I’m not sure. We are so grateful for the military in this community and county.”

Robbins said that gratitude stems in part from the history the county has with the military, such as when Fort McClellan operated as a full-sized base.

“It is only fitting that we do this, and it’s probably overdue,” he said. “I am so excited for this family.”   

That excitement was echoed by Elizabeth Jester and her son, who had already started digging before the ceremonial groundbreaking.

“This is a huge blessing and we’re very thankful and excited,” she said.

Staff Writer B. Scott McLendon: 256-235-3561. On Twitter: @mclendon_b.