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Therapeutic Effect

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    Operation Finally Home

    Reaching Out: Launched in 2005 by the Bay Area Builders Association in Houston, Operation Finally Home has focused on providing free quality housing to injured war veterans. Through December 2011, the organization and its sponsors—including 16 builders—had raised the funds and building materials for 32 homes in six states.

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    Operation Finally Home

    Recognizing True Heroes: Dan Wallrath (left), a 30-year home building veteran and founder of Operation Finally Home, with Corporal Hugo Gonzalez and his family. Gonzalez was wounded while serving in Baquba, Iraq. Operation Finally Home used the Armed Services Bowl football game in 2010 to announce it was giving the family a new home, mortgage free.

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    Operation Finally Home

    Ambitious Plans: Operation Finally Home’s goal in 2012 is to deliver in one year as many homes as it helped fund in the previous six years combined.

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    Operation Finally Home

    New Lease on Life: Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Jorge DeLeon and his family (left), accepting a new house in San Antonio from Dan Wallrath (center) of Operation Finally Home. DeLeon lost his right leg in a mine explosion in Afghanistan, and his left leg was severely injured. He also received a scholarship from the Texas Sentinels’ Foundation.

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    Operation Finally Home

    Not Forgetting: Builder Dan Wallrath (right) says he started Operation Finally Home to help injured war veterans and their families, whom he contends are among “the most unappreciated groups in this country.

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    Children’s National Medical Center

    Sunshine on a Cloudy Day: Van Metre Homes’ president Richard Rabil (right), announcing the company’s donation in 2009 of $50,000 to the Children’s National Medical Center. Accepting the donation are, from left, Frank M. Midgley, M.D., the former executive director of the Joseph E. Robert Jr. Center for Surgical Care and division chief of cardiovascular surgery at the Children’s Medical Center, and Kurt Newman, M.D., president and CEO of the Medical Center.

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    Capital Caring

    Off to the Races: Since 2007, Van Metre Homes has hosted the Van Metre Polo Cup, a charitable sporting event that has raised $15 million to build the Adler Center for Caring in Loudoun County, Va. Adler is part of Capital Caring, a hospice care facility that the builder and its owners have long supported financially.

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    Benefiting Higher Learning. Thirty-seven acres of land in Loudoun County, Va., donated by the chairman and president of Van Metre Homes to George Mason University, will be used as the site of a new college campus.

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    Courtesy Capital Caring

    New Wing. Richard Rabil, president of Van Metre Homes (center), cutting the ribbon for the 2010 opening of the Van Metre Cardiovascular Operating Room within the Children’s National Medical Center. With Rabil is the builder's chairman Beau Van Meter (right). Each year, the builder conducts a five-mile race that, so far, has raised nearly $2 million for the Medical Center.

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    Capital Caring

    A Break in the Action: Van Metre Homes’ chairman Beau Van Metre and wife Dee (first and second from left) with “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh, and Robin Portman, chairman of Capital Caring’s board of directors at the 2011 Van Metre Polo Cup.

Shelter After the Storm

An organization founded by Houston builder Dan Wallrath provides housing for disabled veterans.

On May 28, Memorial Day, Goodall Homes of Gallatin, Tenn., expects to deliver a 3,400-square-foot house to Shaun Meadows, a retired Air Force staff sergeant who, in July 2008, lost his legs after an improvised explosive device hit his convoy during a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan.

Meadows, his wife Nicole, and son Trevor will own their house—built on land Shaun purchased in Lynnville, Tenn., 90 minutes outside of Nashville, Tenn.—mortgage free, thanks to Operation Finally Home, a nonprofit organization that provides quality and accommodative housing to injured and disabled veterans.

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Photos: Shannon Faulk

Stepping In Dan Wallrath started Operation Finally Home to meet the housing needs of injured vets.

Goodall Homes is one of 16 builders that, as of December 2011, are working with Operation Finally Home, which in its first six years raised funds and building material donations for 32 new homes in six states. Its founder and driving force is Dan Wallrath, a Houston-area custom builder for 30 years. Now semi-retired, Wallrath and Carol, his wife of 41 years, spend up to 80 hours per week working on behalf of Operation Finally Home, which he created with the Bay Area Builders Association.

Wallrath first got interested in the housing needs of vets when he met the son of a friend who, as a Marine in Iraq, had been badly injured. The father wanted to remodel his house to meet his son’s wheelchair needs, but didn’t know how he would pay for it. Working with local trades and suppliers, Wallrath remodeled the house for free. “I had assumed these young men and women would be taken care of for the rest of their lives. Boy, was I wrong,” recalls Wallrath.

Operation Finally Home coordinates with local builder associations as part of its fundraising efforts that target manufacturers, businesses, and the general public. Vendors play a pivotal role in Operation Finally Home’s successes. In Nashville, LP Building Products is providing materials for and handling the public relations around the construction of the Meadows house. It also brought Goodall Homes into the project, confirms Keith Porterfield, Goodall’s COO.

LP is one of several vendors—including Acme Brick and Mohawk Carpet—that are national sponsors of the charitable group. Lately, LP has been discussing other projects that would expand the organization’s market coverage to California, Idaho, Washington, and Louisiana. Operation Finally Home’s goal in 2012 is to deliver as many homes as in the previous six years combined.

Since CNN named him one of its “heroes” in 2010, the Stetson-wearing Wallrath has become the public face of an organization that has heightened its profile by, for example, giving away a house to a veteran’s widow during a Houston Texans’ NFL game in December. This winter PBS was preparing a segment on Wallrath and the organization for its “Turning Point” program. And at IBS this week, J.R. Martinez—the badly burned veteran who recently gained fame as a winner on “Dancing With the Stars”—is appearing at the booths of Operation Finally Home and the NAHB Building Systems Council, which is building a house for a disabled vet in North Carolina.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX, Washington, DC.