published Monday, July 1st, 2013

Team Andrew raises home in the woods for wounded warrior (with slideshow)

Danny Ward works to secure a piece of metal fascia outside of the Team Andrew home on Sunday in Apison. Sunday is Day 4 of the seven-day house build for Army Spc. Andrew Smith, who lost his legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan in the spring of 2012.
Danny Ward works to secure a piece of metal fascia outside of the Team Andrew home on Sunday in Apison. Sunday is Day 4 of the seven-day house build for Army Spc. Andrew Smith, who lost his legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan in the spring of 2012.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
CONSTRUCTION UPDATES

WRCB is featuring live reports from the house in every newscast through the dedication.

See a live camera at the build site here.

What was just a slab of concrete in a small clearing in the woods in Apison on Thursday has been transformed into an almost complete home in under four days.

On Sunday, construction on the house for U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Smith and his wife, Tori, had come a long way. The myriad of contractors and volunteers had raised walls and installed floors, roofs, doors and windows in less than 100 hours of around-the-clock work.

"Everybody here is good at their craft; and these are people who out in the world would normally be competing against each other, but here they are all working together," said Kathie Penland, a designer from Yessick's Design Center.

Craftsmen and contractors alike have set aside their rivalries for seven days to build a home for the young couple who lost much in service to the United States. Andrew Smith was on combat foot patrol in Afghanistan last year when he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both legs below the knee. Since then, Andrew and Tori Smith have been on a long road to recovery. This new home is a part of that journey.

"It has been the most amazing thing I've ever been a part of," Penland said.

Penland was the mastermind behind all of the home's design elements. She picked out everything from the doorknobs to the color of the exterior walls.

Inspiration from couple

Penland said she took her inspiration for the home's look from what the Smiths told her they wanted -- homey, comforting, a place to build a family.

TO HELP

Visit Steps2Hope.com for information on how to donate time, money or supplies or volunteer on the build project.

"That's what this is all about: family," she said. "But also like it just came out of the woods."

Despite the project's astonishing progress in so short a time, the build hasn't been without its hang-ups.

"Every day we've had huge speed humps on this," said Mark Wilson, founder of Steps2Hope, the nonprofit organization behind the house. "But I tell everyone that one day we're going to finish and change these two kids' lives forever."

Jim Fleming, staging and materials coordinator for the build, said problems ranged from rain to whole crews of workers not showing up.

"But God provided," Fleming said. "We'll have some crews cancel on us, and just a little while later someone will walk up and say they can do this or that, and it'll be the very thing that canceled."

Faith affirmed

For Fleming, Wilson, Penland and many of the other volunteers, faith in God is a common denominator in their determination to build the home.

"We've dedicated our lives to Jesus Christ, and that is the outflow of this Steps2Hope project," Fleming said.

In a communal expression of their shared values, several hundred volunteers, neighbors and local church members met at the site Sunday to hold a worship service.

"We want people to understand that it's not just that we're building a house," said Brian Smith, associate pastor at Stuart Heights Baptist Church. "This is a reminder of why we're doing what we're doing. That it is an expression of the love of Christ."

Wilson said many volunteers have worked long hours, sometimes up to 18-hour shifts, to get the house done on time. Even after such grueling work, Wilson said the volunteers would thank him for the opportunity.

"That's the magic of this whole thing," he said. "Everyone here comes up and says, 'Thanks for letting me be a part of this.'"

On Sunday, as the sound of drills, saws and hammering echoed through the trees, crews worked at installing kitchen cabinets, bathroom fittings and other interior trappings. Wilson said the next big step was painting the home's exterior.

And even with the setbacks, Wilson said the project is on schedule and the house should be ready by the Fourth of July completion date.

Contact staff writer Lindsay Burkholder at 423-757-6592 or lburkholder@timesfreepress.com.

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