Volunteers renovate home for Hampstead veteran

On an otherwise quiet street in Hampstead on Monday morning, one home was abuzz with activity as about 30 blue-shirted Camden Cares volunteers set about making renovations.

One volunteer stood on the roof installing gutter guards. Another measured and cut lumber. Another raked dirt in a newly built, raised garden bed as the crew transformed Jonathan and Melissa Meadows’ home.

“This is phenomenal,” Melissa Meadows kept repeating as she moved throughout the yard and house talking to volunteers and taking photos. “They didn’t have to do any of this.”

Camden Cares — the community service team of Camden Property Trust — found the couple through their third year working with the Boot Campaign, a nonprofit founded around providing life-improving programs for veterans and military families.

Jonathan Meadows is a retired sergeant first class of the Army National Guard who was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

Melissa Meadows applied to the program in the summer and said she honestly didn’t expect to hear back. When she got the call that they had been chosen, she was out getting dessert with her grandson.

“I almost lost it right there in public,” she said.

In 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan, Jonathan Meadows was sent back to the United States for a surgery to remove what was thought to be possibly a cancerous growth. Melissa Meadows took 10 days off of work to meet him in Virginia for the surgery. Both expected him to fly out again in about two weeks.

When she first saw her husband, Meadows was thrilled. But she realized something was different. As he started going through the check-in process at Fort Belvoir, doctors noticed it, too, and he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.

What was expected to be a swift procedure turned into two years of treatments and therapies. Melissa and Jonathan were in Virginia while their children were in Connecticut.

Through Homes on the Homefront, the Meadows’ were able to move into their Hampstead home in 2016. Before that, it had sat mostly vacant for about five years. The organization made renovations to bring the house up to code, but there was still work to be done that fixed income, disability and full schedules made difficult.

That’s where Camden Cares came in.

Camden Regional Vice President Richard Key said the team can address a “whole gamut” of renovations and repairs to the home. Before the work day, their head of construction visits to assess the home and speak to the homeowners about what will help them. They also reach out to contractors with whom they have relationships.

Then, on the work day, Camden employees descend upon the home. They try to assess beforehand how many volunteers will be needed, considering the full 130-person workforce in Washington, D.C., alone would be overwhelming to most homeowners.

Monday morning, Melissa picked up doughnuts and coffee as a thank-you for the volunteers.

As they split into groups to work on projects, there was plenty of joking and yelling over the sound of hammers and the buzz of chainsaws.

“One of our company values is having fun,” Key said.

Even the family’s pet pig, Hamilton, will benefit from the renovation with an expanded pen in the yard where he will have more room to root around and explore.

One of the most helpful projects was a wooden ramp that will allow people and pigs to get up to the front door without navigating a set of uneven brick steps that present a fall hazard.

Key told Meadows they were going to make the sturdiest ramp she had ever seen.

Inside the house, holes in the subfloor covered up by carpet made things unstable.

A contractor donated a waterproof, slip-proof flooring that looks just like rich brown hardwood as well as the installation.

Other projects throughout the house included building a deck, installing drywall, building a raised garden bed, improving the gutters, wiring outside lighting and replacing acoustic tiles in the basement that were moldy.

Key said those who are interested in making a donation or getting involved to help veterans can get more information through the Boot Campaign at www.bootcampaign.org.

catalina.righter@carrollcountytimes.com

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