Some homecoming. Neighbors in a Peoria, Ill., suburb reportedly circulated a petition to protest a Habitat for Humanity home being built for a decorated Afghanistan war veteran and his family.
The complaint, Peoria Journal Star columnist Phil Luciano fumed in a column, was that the home would be made of wood and not brick like other homes in the Village of Morton. The writer skewered the unidentified petitioners for a lack of gratitude.
The new homeowner, U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Wood, felt the hostility as well. "At first, my wife and I were really hurt. We just felt they really don’t know us as a family," he told Luciano.
Wood, 28, earned two Bronze stars in two tours of Afghanistan and lost his hearing in one ear. He and his wife, Julie, have three kids, who range in age from 2 months to 8 years old.
"This is a couple who made a sacrifice multiple times with multiple tours of duty. They served very honorably for our country and they are in need of a home," Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) said of the Woods during an announcement last summer that Habitat for Humanity would build its first military home in the Peoria area.
Wood said at the time that the "whole program was too good to be true." And for a while this week, it appeared that way.
Lea Anne Schmidgall, executive director of Habitat For Humanity of the Greater Peoria Area, told The Huffington Post that misconceptions about Habitat for Humanity can spawn negative reactions. She said neighbors sometimes worry about the family moving in and about property values.
"I think that what happens is that people don't educate themselves very well," she told The Huffington Post.
But she believes the controversy this week gave Habitat for Humanity the chance to inform others about its mission -- providing appropriate, affordable housing. She noted that the Woods' home will have a front brick facade and that there might be enough funding to do the sides.
Schmidgall added that publicity generated by the petition also built support for Wood in the neighborhood. She explained that advocates will now go out of their way to make sure that the soldier, a National Guardsman who makes a living as a warehouse manager, and his family feel at home when it's time to move in.
"Now the Woods will feel very welcome," said Schmidgall.
Construction is slated to begin next spring.
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