Friday, September 14, 2012
The spirit of giving and local volunteerism is on display in a big way in Lemon Grove. That's where the home of a wounded warrior is being restored and upgraded for wheelchair access. Volunteers with a non-profit group called Embrace are making it happen.
They're redoing all the wiring in the three-bedroom house to get it up to code. They're installing central air conditioning, a new bathroom and kitchen, and concrete railings along with wheelchair ramps to make it easier for Mark Hupp to get around. Hupp and his wife Breeanna have lived in the house for about three years. He's a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq until he was injured by an improvised explosive device in Fallujah. "When I was hit, initially I denied medevac and I kept working because I didn't want to leave my team leader on his own, but what came from that was it ended up damaging my back and my vision primarily. As well as some TBI [traumatic brain injury] and, later, post-traumatic stress disorder."
Hupp eventually got involved with the Wounded Warrior Battalion. "A friend of mine is in prosthetics and a guy comes in and says, 'Hey, anybody need any work done on the home?' He goes, 'Yeah, we use Mark's house as a meeting place. He's a combat wounded veteran. See what you can do as far as a railing.' And it turns into this," Hupp said with a surprised look on his face.
"Mark does a lot of entertaining at his house, and most of his friends that come over happen to be disabled veterans who are wheelchair users," said Sean Sheppard. Sheppard founded Embrace, the non-profit organization behind the Healing our Heroes' Homes project.
Sheppard said Hupp's is the fourth home they've restored in San Diego in the past year. "It really does say a lot about Mark as a person to say, 'You know what, I really appreciate you doing work on my home, but can you help me with my friends that come here that are disabled too?' And that just brought another layer of need and another layer of giving to this particular project," Sheppard said.
About 100 student volunteers from San Diego State University will join other volunteers and contractors to complete the job this weekend. They also got support from Home Depot, McCarthy Building Companies and the Weingart Foundation.
"You got contractors and companies and organizations donating immense amounts of material and labor. I mean for my wife and I to do the things that are being accomplished in four days, it would take us 15 years," Hupp said.
"No thanks is needed," Sheppard said. "This is our way of saying thank you to him, for all he's done. He doesn't have to thank us."
For more about Embrace, or to volunteer, go to their website.