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Burlington County Times, NJ: A Time to Say 'Thanks' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Zimmaro   
Friday, 18 July 2008 00:00

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July 18, 2008 7:16 AM

A time to say 'thanks'
Burlington County Times

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FLORENCE — More than 100 volunteers flooded the 600 block of East Fifth Street yesterday to say 'thank you' in a very special way.

Homes For Our Troops, a nonprofit organization from Massachusetts that builds specially adapted homes for injured veterans, began building a house for retired Marine Staff Sgt.

Andrew Robinson and his wife, Sara. Robinson, a native of North Hanover, was severely injured when his vehicle was attacked while serving in Iraq in June 2006. He sustained compound fractures to his lower legs, collapsed lungs and fractured vertebra that left him paralyzed from the chest down with partial paralysis in his arms.

“It's not a repayment; it's just a thank you,” said Kurt Rebello, the chief projects officer from Homes For Our Troops. “It's really the least we could do. Andrew sacrificed so much and he will never be the same. There is no way he could live in a regular house that isn't adapted to fit his needs. We're just happy we can give him one.”

Robinson has been renting a house in Southern California near where he was stationed before deployment to Iraq. He returned this week for a glimpse of his home being built.

On a day more fit for going to the beach than construction work, the volunteers endured the hot and sunny weather to help build the handicapped-accessible home. By noon, several walls were standing and a few hours later, most of the framework had been completed.

“It's one thing for people in the community to send cards or make a phone call,” said Robinson, 25, “but to see people come out and work for a full day and take off from their jobs to come down here. It's really amazing to see the outpouring of support.”

By tomorrow night, all the outside work to the house, including the roof and windows, will be complete according to Charles Kojeski, a Medford resident and president of Kojeski Construction.

The Robinsons should be able to move into their new home between September and the end of the year.

More than 60 of the volunteers were part of a group comprised of veteran police officers, firefighters, construction trade union workers and surviving families of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

The group, known as H.E.A.R.T. 9/11, or Healing Emergency Aid Response Team, made the trip from New York and North Jersey to lend a hand in the project.

“(Robinson) had some bad injuries,” said volunteer Chris Jensen, a firefighter from Queens, N.Y. “It relates to firefighters. Some guys get burned real badly and they are never the same. It's a camaraderie we have and it's a good lesson to our kids that grow up idolizing Britney (Spears) and A-Rod. Guys like (Robinson) are real heroes.”

Robinson said he was in awe of the support from a group of strangers.“A lot of these guys are from New York and I've never met them before,” he said. “Normally, if you ask one of your friends to help build your house, they might say "well, I'm kind of doing something that weekend.' These guys are putting in a 12-hour day and going back to New York. It's really amazing.”

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 November 2008 03:55 )