Tonawanda News

July 28, 2012

Homeward bound

By Michael Regan , michael.regan@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It’s been three years since Marine Cpl. Paul Schaus was severely injured during a battle in Afghanistan and it will be another few months before he’s finally at home. 

Schaus lost both his legs and a finger when he stepped on a landmine in the middle of a conflict with insurgents. That was in June of 2009, on his second deployment, when he twice went into cardiac arrest before a harrowing rush to resusitate him.  

He then spent years in recovery, first in Germany, and then at two different medical centers in the United States, where he received treament and underwent rigorous therapy. 

Now he’s ready to come back to Western New York, where he grew up. And this weekend dozens of volunteers have joined in with memebers of Homes For Troops, an organization that has constructed 112 new-builds for injured veterans across the nation. 

Much of the land for Schaus’ house-to-be, which will be located on Sherwood Avenue and Wall Street, was donated by an NT resident, while a parcel of city-owned property was also chipped in free of charge. 

The city assessor was approached last year by Homes For Troops, which led to a search for a viable spot. When finished, Schaus, who now has two prosthetic legs and walks with a cane, will have a 2,600-square-foot ranch-style home, a garage and patio and handicapped accessibility. 

Schaus was able to choose from among three ideal locations to live in the region, North Tonawanda being one of them.

The foundation is already in place and the first walls were raised Friday morning. Much of the base of the home will be complete by the end of the week, while crews will finish the remainder of the structure’s interior in the next three to four months. 

“What’s occurring this weekend is the completion of a weather-tight shell, so what we’ll have is the exteriors, siding, roof windows and doors,” said Jennifer Fiorentino, a spokesperson for Homes for Troops. 

The organization is a privately funded not-for-profit that raises money and construction materials, organizes volunteers and builds homes that are suitable for those with life-altering disabilities. It was founded in 2004.

Fiorentino said in addition to the more than 100 homes that have already been finished, she expects another 20 will be completed by the end of the year. She added Schaus received $63,780 through a U.S. Department of Vetaran’s Affairs grant. 

“What we generally do is go out and search for land in a particular area,” Fiorentino said. “We ask the vet to give us a radius of where they want to live. In this case it was North Tonawanda, where I have to say, there’s been an outpouring of support.”  

A ceremony will take place in the fall, when Schaus will be given the key to his new home. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.