Disabled Veterans Receive Homes for the Holidays

Developers are often painted as the bad guys, but for five disabled veterans, one developer is a hero.

Through a program known as Operation Finally Home, Boca Raton-based Bluegreen Communities is giving away five custom-built homes to disabled U.S. veterans. Each 3,000-square-foot house sits on a 1-acre lot at The Bridges at Preston Crossing, the company's development in Gunter, Tex.
Two disabled veterans and their families are already watching their new brick homes go up: Sergeant First Class Alan Hornaday and his wife, Sheila, of Fordyce, Ark., and Sergeant Levi Wilson, Jr., and his wife, Katie, of Fort Worth, Tex. Sergeant Hornaday sustained injuries in Baghdad in 2004, and Sergeant Wilson was injured in Iraq in early 2008. A third 1-acre lot and home will be awarded to an as-yet-announced vet on December 31.

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Dan Wallrath, the Houston builder who started Operation Finally Home in 2005, will hand over the keys to the new houses. Wallrath was named a 2010 CNN Hero for conceiving the program, which has donated homes to 11 disabled veterans and widows of servicemen. Operation Finally Home solicits materials and donations from vendors and suppliers and land from developers such as Bluegreen; builders donate their labor. The program is sponsored by the Bay Area Builders Association, which recruited Bluegreen into the program.

"It was such a natural fit for us," says Stephen M. Davis, senior vice president of Bluegreen Communities. "The least we can do is give [disabled veterans] a leg up when they come home. They have taken care of us and our safety, let us take care of them."

The Bridges at Preston Crossing has a pretty unique community story itself. Located about an hour north of Dallas in fast-growing Gunter, it was the former ranch retreat and polo getaway for Dallas socialite Myron K. Martin. The vast property was a celebrity haven for years, hosting royalty like Price Albert of Monaco and countless Texas rich. Bluegreen bought the ranch from Martin in 2005 and began developing the property in 2006. Residents of the master-planned community, including the Wilsons and Hornadays, have use of the professional equestrian facilities for riding or dressage, an 18-hole Fred Couples Signature golf club, future swimming and fitness center, plus great bass fishing, canoeing and about 12 miles of nature trails.

As for Myron's hifalutin ranch house, complete with its bleached wood finishes, designer gourmet appliances and huge covered lap pool, Bluegreen plans to keep it as one of several clubhouses, along with the memories.

Top: Sgt. Hornaday. Bottom: Sgt. Wilson and his wife.

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