Charlotte veteran gets free house from charity, BofA
The Charlotte Observer
Ben Dellinger didn't believe it when a charity official told him via email that he'd soon be getting a free 2,800-square-foot house in northeast Charlotte's popular Highland Creek community.
"Then they sent me the address and I drove over and saw that a house actually existed there," said Dellinger. "I was amazed. I remember thinking: 'My God, is this my neighborhood?'?"
On Tuesday, 30-year-old Dellinger was formally welcomed into his new home, the latest in a series of combat-wounded veterans to get houses from the nonprofit Military Warriors Support Foundation.
The Texas-based foundation intends to give away 1,000 homes over the next four years to wounded combat vets like Dellinger, a former Army staff sergeant who lost a leg during an IED explosion in Baghdad on May 2, 2007.
Houses are being provided by banks like Wells Fargo, GMAC, Chase and Bank of America, and can include foreclosed, vacant or abandoned properties. Bank of America has so far contributed two properties to the program in North Carolina, including Dellinger's new home.
"It feels like I hit the lottery. There are people who live their entire lives without ever paying off their mortgage," said Dellinger, who had most recently been living at the home of a deceased relative in Mount Holly.
"I think it's very important for organizations like Bank of America to put their faces out there and show they're willing to do good things for veterans, because it can set an example for others to follow."
Charles Bowman of Bank of America attended Dellinger's housewarming Tuesday with about 20 bank employees who volunteered to do repair and landscaping projects around the two-story, four-bedroom home.
In addition, the bank has arranged for Dellinger to be the honorary green-flag starter for the Oct. 13th Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. His participation is designed to promote a bank campaign to express thanks to U.S. veterans.
"This is not a new cause for the bank," Bowman said. "There is just a more intense need at this time, with thousands of veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. We're using the Bank of America 500 as a way to bring visibility to the issue."
BofA to donate more houses
Bowman noted the announcement just last month that Bank of America, like the Military Warriors foundation, intends to donate 1,000 properties nationwide to injured military veterans and first responders. Those homes will be distributed via local governments and nonprofits like the Military Warriors foundation.
Ken Eakes, executive director of the foundation, said the Homes 4 Wounded Heroes program has been given 217 houses, 167 of which have already been awarded to wounded veterans in several states.
The housing program, started in 2010, helps veterans wounded in combat in either Afghanistan or Iraq, and it provides mentoring to help them deal with the responsibilities of being a homeowner. Veterans can apply for houses online at www.militarywarriors.org.
Eakes said Dellinger received the fourth home to be given away in the state through the program. There are an estimated 48,000 wounded veterans in need, and many need help transitioning back into civilian life -- including homes, he added.
"The rehabilitation time is on average a year them and their families (as) part of the healing process, which means giving up income," said Eakes. "It can be a chaotic situation, where they are trying to survive financially."
Dellinger has some career ideas in mind and he believes a mortgage-free house allows him to begin apprenticeships without jeopardizing his ability to care for his son, Ayden, 7.
Better still, on Friday he'll marry his sweetheart of four years, Katie Swedensky.
Like Dellinger said, it's as if he hit the lottery.