Updated: Nov 10
Habitat for Humanity partner families often share dreams of putting down roots for their kids. But for Thomas Redding, Habitat’s very first Veterans Build home partner, the opposite is true. In his case, daughter Kendra is determined to build her life in Cheyenne and that's inspired her dad to do the same.
Thomas spent much of his adult life being semi - nomadic. After a hitch of service in the United States Navy, he pursued careers in the culinary arts, construction and transportation trades all over the country. Then the birth of his only child gave him a reason to stay put for a while.
"That was a 180-degree moment, for sure," Thomas said. These days his daughter, Kendra, is pursuing a degree in education while working as a Montessori preschool teacher. Since she wants to make her life in Cheyenne, Thomas decided he wanted to stay for good as well.
Getting to know Thomas, it's apparent he's already attached to our community. As Transportation Coordinator and Driver for D.A.V. (Disabled American Veterans), a non-profit organization offering transportation and other services to veterans free of charge, Thomas spends his days driving veterans to medical appointments. He loves the work because he "gets to pay it forward to the vets." He strives to be a friendly face to those who've served our nation and may face homelessness, disability or transportation issues, and often, isolation. "We owe these guys so much; some of them are dealing with a lot of hardship," said an emotional Thomas.
Then there's his community at the Universal Unitarian Church. He quickly felt at home when an acquaintance invited him to try it out. On his second visit, the person who was supposed to make the coffee was running late. Thomas, who earned his culinary skills cooking for 5,000 sailors, was happy to jump in and take over. Today he's a fixture in the church kitchen where he organizes cooking for events, fundraisers, and the Church's partnership with the Comea Shelter. "Feeding people is Thomas's ministry," said one of his fellow congregants, "He's the first one to arrive and the last one to leave.”
The Universal Unitarian Church is also where Thomas met realtor Marcie Kindred. Kindred and another realtor before her tried for years to find a home Thomas would qualify for. Of the of homes they looked at, none met the standards of the VA housing loan programs available to Thomas. The homes that did meet the standards were all beyond his budget. "Thomas is very aware of the unique challenges veterans face. We have exhausted every avenue and still came up short," said Kindred.
One of the homes they looked at was located at 603 E 7th Street. The VA wouldn't have approved the loan because the house was in rough shape. Instead, Habitat for Humanity acquired the property with the goal of making it their first Veterans Build project.
A Habitat Veterans Build is a program that draws attention to many of the housing challenges our Nation’s Heroes face. During the Veterans Build, Habitat will offer volunteer opportunities both on our build site and for other programs serving our military community's needs.
Thomas had already applied for a Habitat home twice. Despite not being selected, Thomas continued to support Habitat projects and the partner families who were. So, when his realtor suggested he apply for the Veterans Build project, he was the first to get his application in.
On a sunny September afternoon, he found out the third time was indeed the charm. The staff of Habitat, along with business sponsors and supporters, surprised Thomas with the news he'd soon own a home of his own.
Thomas thought this meant he'd be helping renovate the home currently located on the lot but instead, learned Habitat would be tearing it down and building a new home. He was speechless. "It was overwhelming; I kept wondering, why me?" he said. Thomas will contribute hundreds of hours of sweat equity to the home and then purchase it with an affordable mortgage. The payments he'll make on the house will be reinvested in affordable homes for more local families.
Habitat keeps homes affordable through community support. Volunteers and students do much of the building, and local businesses donate or discount their materials and service to keep expenses down. A Habitat project builds capital for neighbors vital to our community but priced out of the booming housing market. Habitat partner families are the backbone of the local economy, and their stability benefits everyone.
The Veterans Build has already gained a lot of community support. Corey and Shon, owners of Lynn Buys Houses, sold Habitat the lot below market value. Next, all eight local credit unions jumped at the chance to support a veteran and sponsored the lot’s entire purchase price. Winters Griffith Architects designed the new home at a steep discount. Now locally owned business partners like 911 Roofing Solutions, Moore Insulation, Capital Lumber, All Around Plumbing & Heating, Custom Home Painters of Cheyenne, TrussCraft, Kaiser Flooring, Borderline Fencing, Wyoming Building Supply, and more a have signed on to help.
Building during 2020 has presented a lot of challenges. The Veterans Build was one of two projects planned for the year. With the costs of building materials on the rise, housing costs are going up too, putting the dream of homeownership further out of reach for those earning below the median income level of local wages, including some who have also served our country. For this reason, Habitat also encourages those who can to contribute to the project with their charitable giving.
Habitat invites the entire community to get involved. You can follow the progress by joining our email list or checking on our social media. To inquire about volunteer opportunities, contact Pat McIlwain firstname.lastname@example.org. To inquire about sponsorship opportunities or donations, contact Executive Director Kate Wright email@example.com.
In a year like no other when we have truly come to understand how important it is to have a safe place to call home, Habitat remains committed to building strength, stability, and self-reliance through affordable housing in Laramie County.