WARSAW — Warsaw turned out in force Thursday, Sept. 14, to welcome U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Justin Raymer and his family home at their new 100 percent mortgage-free, custom-built home, located in the Shadow Lakes addition.
The home project saw its launch after John Kidd of R.W. Kidd Construction and Brett Harter of Freeman & Harter Custom Homes first learned of Operation Finally Home at the National Association of Home Builders’ 2016 International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas, Nev., and brought back the idea to the Builders Association of Kosciusko Fulton Counties.
“God put us there,” Kidd said during the dedication ceremony. “Around that time, these two (Justin and his wife Kaci) signed up on a long shot.”
Dan Wallrath, founder and president of Operation Finally Home, shared when he heard about an interested builders association in Indiana, he had to look up Warsaw, and then he had concerns about its size, noting OFH often works with larger cities.
Those doubts soon vanished, with Wallrath saying, “But you really pulled it off.”
He added, “This is the smallest builders association and smallest community we have worked with, and it is the most giving project we have ever had.”
More than 140 area businesses and individuals donated building materials, skilled labor, cash and their time to complete the home. Community support also enabled the BAKFC to meet one of its major goals: cover the project 100 percent to reimburse OFH. In fact, there is even extra to go toward future OFH builds.
The Warsaw project — the first in Indiana — marks the 132nd custom-built home OFH has seen completed, with 90 other homes currently in the works around the country. Wallrath launched OFH in Texas to help a family bring their veteran son home, rather than put him in a home. Since that start, OFH has worked with Veterans Affairs caseworkers to find families in similar situations and give back to veterans and their families.
“We will be at 200 homes shortly,” Wallrath said.
Raymer, a Warsaw native and graduate of Warsaw Community High School, served four years in the National Guard and nine years in the U.S. Army. He was deployed three times to Iraq where he sustained multiple injuries on three different occasions, leaving him 100 percent disabled.
Wallrath noted, “He always dreamed of coming back (to Warsaw).”
Kaci voiced the family’s gratitude for the community’s support at the ceremony.
“Everyone has been very welcoming since we got here,” she said, noting it’s been like being home even though she isn’t from Warsaw, and for Raymer, it’s like he never left.
She also noted the family is ready to begin their next chapter in Warsaw. “We can build roots for our kids; they can be from somewhere — they couldn’t say that before.”
BAKFC president David Johnson and Mayor Joe Thallemer also spoke at the event, welcoming the family back to Warsaw. Actor D.B. Sweeney also made a guest appearance, and attendees listened to Jason Michael Carroll sing two songs prior to his performance that evening at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts.
The evening culminated with the ribbon cutting ceremony followed by the Raymer family finally being able to see the interior of their new home.
“There are no words for how grateful I am — just no words,” Kidd said of being able to help with the build. “I’m overwhelmed by how many wonderful people I’ve met (through the project). We’ve had 150-160 people donate cash, materials and come out and help us build. In the state of Indiana, we are the first (OFH build). I hope there’s a snowball effect (for the state).”