Wounded veteran gets gift of new home in Petersburg
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Aug 5, 2013, 17:15
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Three generations of the Lucas family and friends were present as wounded veteran Jarred Lucas was donated a new home in Petersburg.
PETERSBURG — Despite the rainy weather on Thursday, spirits were high as members of the Petersburg community gathered to celebrate the donation of a house to wounded veteran Jarred Lucas and his family. The house was donated through a collaborative effort by many local programs and organizations including the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Homes For Hearts Inc. and Pathways, who all felt that the Lucas family were the deserving recipients of a brand new home.
Jarred was physically impaired by an explosive device that went off while he was serving overseas in Iraq. The bomb caused a traumatic brain injury that disabled Jarred’s vision and causes him to battle the daily onset of seizures.
After moving to Virginia from Hawaii where Jarred was receiving medical treatment for his injuries, he, his wife, Marie, and their 1-year-old son have been living on the floor of his parent’s mobile home.
As Jarred was given the keys to his new home, he reflected upon something he heard during his stint in Iraq to emphasize the infectious characteristics that good deeds can have.
“My team leader told me, ‘If I can do right by you, maybe you will do right by somebody, and that person will do right by somebody else because it starts somewhere. And even if it starts small, maybe it can get big one day,’” Jarred said.
The Lucas family was not required to make a down payment and do not have to pay mortgage or rent, said Karen Easley, president of Homes For Hearts Inc., a nonprofit agency that offers homes to meet the needs of disabled veterans.
“It gives our recipient family a place to live and age in place for the rest of their lives if they want to,” Easley said.
The project was primarily funded through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, administered by the VDHCD, through which foreclosed or vacant homes can be purchased and redeveloped so as not to allow for abandoned or decrepit households within functioning neighborhoods.
Surrounded by friends and extended family, the Lucas family was given the two-story, three-bedroom home partly furnished, including a completely finished nursery for their 1-year old son, Bobby.
Cheri Miles, the program manager for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, personally modified the nursery with the help of her husband.
Jarred applauded the efforts of all of the programs involved and stressed that there needs to be more programs and people just like those involved in creating his new home.
As Kerri Gerke, resource specialist for the Virginia Wounded Warriors Program, fought back tears during a speech at the ceremony, she expressed a deep hope that the new house would create a brighter, more painless future for the Lucas family.
Although this house “is not going to fix any of [Jarred’s] disabilities, it’s not going to cure any of them, I do hope that it makes it a little bit easier for you to focus on treatment and the rehabilitative services that you need to be able to attain a higher quality of life and bring happiness and enjoyment back into your family,” Gerke said to the family.
Marie Lucas expressed deep gratitude for the wealth of charitable assistance and said that sometimes just a shoulder for support is enough.
“I know that my family will love and cherish this home forever. I’m just glad that I have a community behind me so I can support my husband through this time,” she said.
The house has an affordability period of 15 years, during which if the family tried to sell or refinance the home, the costs paid by the NSP would be recycled back through the program and the Lucas family would have to pay back the original costs, Miles said.