By Jessica Bagley
Niagara Gazette — NORTH TONAWANDA — Marine Cpl. Paul Schaus is just weeks away from receiving his new house through the nonprofit organization, Homes for Troops, which provides injured, returning veterans a new home, free of charge.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Schaus said. “I’m pretty excited.”
Homes for Troops held a volunteer day Saturday to do landscaping work at the Sherwood Avenue home. Dozens of volunteers turned out to lay down 8,500 square feet of sod, turning dirt into grass in just a few hours.
Schaus, a Western New York Native, was injured in June 2009 while on his second deployment during a battle in Afghanistan when he stepped on a landmine, losing both his legs and a finger. He went into cardiac arrest twice before being resuscitated.
Schaus went through years of therapy in Germany and the U.S., and now has two prosthetic legs and walks with a cane. He’s excited for the accessibility of his new, 2,600 square foot ranch home.
“I’ll be converting from my mom’s home in the town here in a few weeks,” Schaus said. “It’s a lot of stairs there, this will be nice.”
Schaus, who has been back in Buffalo for about a year, had a choice of three neighborhoods and three designs. He chose North Tonawanda for its atmosphere.
“I liked this location, I like the area,” he said. “North Tonawanda is a nice neighborhood.”
Jodie Buckley, Schaus’ cousin and executive assistant at Grand-Jude Plumbing Inc., the contractor for the home’s construction, said the neighbors in the area have been very welcoming — displaying banners and American flags when work began, and donating food for workers as construction continued.
“We are here almost seven days a week, until sundown, working,” Buckley said. “The men working have donated countless hours to the job.”
Schaus was very pleased his family’s company could work on the house.
“Usually, Home for Troops doesn’t want families to be too involved,” he said. “But they OK’d this, and it’s pretty cool.”
Homes for Troops was founded in 2004 and assists injured veterans by raising money and construction materials, organizing volunteers, and designing homes for those with life-altering disabilities.
Since its beginning, the organization has built 112 homes for veterans. 20 more are expected to be complete by the end of the year.
The nonprofit searches for empty parcels of land suitable for building. Schaus’s new home was made possible through land donations from a NT resident and the city.
Construction on the home began in June, and just a few months later, the work is almost complete.
“We are putting in floors now,” Buckley said. “And then it’s just the cabinets, countertops and appliances.”
The work done Saturday helped the property look more like home, and volunteers were happy to help. Ernie Green, pastor at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church just around the corner from the house, said 14 members of the parish took part.
“He is a neighbor to our church,” Green said. “We just wanted to give thanks for his sacrifice on our behalf.”
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.