Donors make veteran's Blairsville house a home
By Paul Peirce
Published: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Purple Heart recipient Cory R. Howard exuded pride Friday as he talked about renovations to his century-old home in Blairsville.
“Come on in. Look at the kitchen — I never could have done this on my own,” said Howard, 31, a retired Marine corporal who was seriously injured in 2007 in Iraq.
“Look — a granite counter top, oak cabinets that were custom-made to fit right here, a new sink and appliances and all of this space,” Howard beamed.
As recently as 21⁄2 months ago, Howard and his wife, Risa, admit, they wouldn't have been so eager to show off their house at 175 W. First Ave.
The couple recalled using a bowl from a crock pot and running up and down a flight of stairs to empty water from the second-floor bathtub into the kitchen sink.
“The drain in the bathtub was so corroded it wouldn't drain,” Howard said.
The antiquated bathroom plumbing often leaked onto the stove below, ruining meals before they were finished cooking.
Thanks to RenovatingHope, a West Chester-based nonprofit that provides home repairs, appliances and renovation services to the families of veterans and men and women serving in the military, the Howards and their 1-year-old daughter, Madison, celebrated completion of the project on Friday.
RenovatingHope founder Paul S. Hoffecker said the project is among more than 100 the 5-year-old organization has completed around the country.
“What we're trying to do is remove one stress from their daily lives and give them comfort and security in their own home. They don't have to worry about fixing a window, sink or the electrical outlets,” he said.
“Most of these men and women are too proud to ask for help. But this is the least we can do for our heroes,” said Hoffecker, who left his job as a hospital construction manager in New York to start the nonprofit.
The improvements to the Howard home include a completely updated kitchen and bathroom, an all-new electrical panel, new windows, a new rear door, repairs to walls and ceilings, painting and some landscaping. Hoffecker estimated the repairs at more than $50,000.
Pynos Construction and Joyce Plumbing were among local contractors that assisted with the renovations. Home Depot in Greensburg also assisted.
A California native, Howard is retired from the Marine Corps with a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He enlisted in 2003 and was involved in operation “Phantom Fury” in Fallujah. He was awarded a Meritorious Mast for his actions when three fellow Marines were seriously wounded.
In May 2007, an improvised explosive device went off under his 32-ton supply vehicle, resulting in second- and third-degree burns on 30 percent of his body. He suffered shrapnel wounds to his right side, and three bones in his right foot were shattered.
Because of his severe burns, he required skin grafts on his right arm and both legs, as well as facial surgery.
He suffers chronic pain and nerve damage in his extremities. A spinal problem that was a side effect of his treatment prevents him from working.
A military insurance program helped him purchase the wood-frame house in July 2012.
Howard was linked with Hoffecker's organization through staff at the Veterans Affairs office in Altoona. Howard thanked his mother, Mrs. Andrew Howard of San Clemente, with writing a letter alerting Veterans Affairs officials to the family's plight.
“I hate speaking in public,” Howard said, adding that he made an exception during the community celebration honoring his service and completion of the project.
Howard agreed to participate, hoping it will bring awareness and more contributions to the RenovatingHope organization.
“I wanted to do this to help the men and women who follow me,” Howard said.
Howard moved to Blairsville to study auto collision repair and refinishing at WyoTech. After graduating in September 2011, he was hired by BMW but could not stay on the job because of back pain.
Now, Risa studies welding at Westmoreland County Community College while he cares for their daughter as a stay-at-home dad.
“I absolutely love it,” he said.
And he likes the home part, too.
“This has been a huge relief for us,” Howard said, looking around the kitchen.
More information on the nonprofit is available at www.RenovatingHope.org
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- North Versailles, Murrysville families still waiting for report on 2011 chopper crash that killed couple
- ‘We Are FR’ fund going strong
- Blaze damages Derry Twp. garage, apartment
- Graziani hired away from Latrobe as Penn Township’s manager
- Scottdale to reconsider use of complaint forms
- Police say Latrobe woman bought gun for boyfriend, who shot neighbor
- St. Vincent student killed in ‘unfortunate accident’ in Erie
- Retired postal worker picks $1M winner
- City approves deal to supply Greater Latrobe with school resource officer
- Hempfield Area superintendent, business manager quit
- Jailed Hribal ‘fine,’ but family ‘terrible’ as answers in stabbing sought