December 24th, 2014 12:16 EST
Army Family Receives Basement Make-over for Christmas
By J.D. Leipold
Army News Service
An Army staff sergeant, his wife and their seven children received a huge Christmas surprise when they arrived home yesterday morning, to find their basement was no longer a series of never-ending projects.
Standing at the bottom of the stairs, the kids and their parents took in their newly created 800-square foot study-play-lounge room with eyes wide and jaws dropped. The last time they`d seen their basement, it was just a disorderly, confused giant room that offered no real comfort or family warmth.
Support from Business Owners
Just 16 days ago, as the family hunkered down in the upstairs area of their Alexandria, Virginia, home, 35 independent small-business owners in the construction trades from Home Service Solutions Group assaulted the basement with hammers and crowbars, banging and tearing away the walls and ceiling, until the giant space was gutted, with the exception of the bead board wainscoting that wife Jennifer wanted to keep.
What the family was looking at now was this great room with sections -- the kids` nook with its granite desktop and laptops along with two chairs for studying and a giant screen with a gaming console. Then there was that foundation pole that had been turned into a wrap-around square bench with storage beneath, Off to the side rested a large, brown, overstuffed and plushy sectional with a big square ottoman -- a seat for everyone from which to watch TV on a giant screen, which was wrapped with what-not and bookshelves. On one wall hung family photos which 9-year-old Mackenna said "was so cool."
While the space has heat, it doesn`t boast air-conditioning, so professional home interior designer Christine Wiott had four ceiling fans installed and added spot-lighting. There`s new carpet, all new furniture, curtains, trim work and an updated bunkroom and full bathroom. The project was capped by a twinkling fully decorated Christmas tree, under which lay gifts for the family and along the wainscoting hung nine stockings with more presents under a nativity manger.
The basement make-over idea came about when Wiott and fellow HSSG member David Schroeder approached Operation Homefront on behalf of their organization with the idea of a home make-over of some type.
"This is one of those things where it feels great being a part of a group of people being able to give back to a family who will appreciate it during the holidays," said Schroeder. "I`ve been involved, as have many others, with give-back programs, but this is by far the biggest one I`ve ever participated in. It`s definitely emotional for all of us."
Operation Homefront Mid-Atlantic Outreach Coordinator Cyndi Lucas said there were just three requirements a family had to meet in order to be eligible for the make-over -- own their home, live in the northern Virginia area, and be in a paygrade of E-1 through E-6.
The staff sergeant selected will be called Brandon for security reasons.
Wiott met with Brandon`s wife for several hours to discuss her vision, saying the most challenging part was making sure everything functioned, so they would have beauty along with functionality: "I needed to make sure there was enough space for everybody to do different things, but to still be together as a family."
An Emotional Response
Brandon, whose military occupational specialty is computers, will be heading to Germany in February, on a two-year unaccompanied assignment.
"This basement has been a project for the last five years, full of starts and restarts. Now, I`m just so excited and happy for my family -- this is truly amazing," he said. "I thought I`d just be excited and happy, but more emotions came out than I was ready to handle.
"It means people are appreciating what we do as a military and this kind of appreciation is very nice to see and I`m grateful for all these two groups did for us " this really feels like home," he said.
Wiott, who also had a tough time containing her emotions, said her personal motivation for the project was simple; it was all about giving back and helping a family.
"I helped a family; the kids touched my heart, and I think about them all the time. I helped a family," she said again; "I helped a veteran and his family, that`s what I did, and it was worth every penny. There`s no doubt we will all do this again."
Photo Credit: Wikipedia