By Don Lowe 

   Taking care of all those who have served our country should certainly be a priority here at home, and the Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, which has operated for 32 years, is doing its part. 

   Five years ago, this generous local non-profit organization created a Veterans Build program to provide much-needed assistance for so many individuals who helped protect our freedoms. 

   Scott Clayton, executive director of the Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, looked back on how Veterans Build came about as he recollected, “There was a World War II veteran who had recently passed, Mr. Harold Layton. Four of his friends stopped by and asked me several questions about Habitat for Humanity. Mr. Layton had gone through the Joplin tornado. 

   “He’d seen a lot of what we were doing in the community and appreciated our work. He left $35,000 to his friends to give to an organization they felt would best use the funds. They decided Mr. Layton would have wanted the funds to go toward building a home for a veteran.” 

   Bringing the story closer to home, Clayton reflected, “It was moving for me personally. My grandfather served in World War II. He was Harold Clayton. And here’s WWII veteran Harold Layton giving funds to a place where I work to help a veteran in need of housing. 

   “Shortly after, Steven Gandy with Home Depot secured a sizeable grant and then the American Legion Post 13 had funding available and made a third contribution needed to build a house. The house was built for veteran Ronald King and his wife, Charlotte. It’s one of the most special builds we’ve had.” 

   Clayton recognized this effort as a big deal, and he said, “The National Low Income Housing Coalition finds that 2.5 million veterans heading households are at least 55 years old. Of those 2.5 million veterans, 24% have housing-cost burdens.  

   “Unlike older civilians, older veterans are more likely to have a disability – 35% versus 28% – which may require home modifications or health and other supportive services as they age. Additionally, nearly 4 million veterans pay at 30% of their income toward rent or mortgage, while more than 1.5 million pay at least 50%. 

   “These are individuals who made the conscious decision to serve our country, placing service over self. 

   “Many of us can’t even imagine what many who have served our country have gone through. It’s an honor and privilege to be able to help build homes for veterans in need of better housing.” 

   Clayton is thrilled to be involved in this work. “There are many organizations and individuals that are in our area that are supportive to the veteran community. I’m proud that Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity is one of them. 

   “Personally, I’ve been working here for more than 13 years, and I wouldn’t have been doing it for this long without believing wholeheartedly in the work. We’ve been able to do a good amount, and there’s much more left to do.” 

Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity/Veterans Build Fast Facts

What: Veterans Build Program, which began in 2017

Extension of Habitat for Humanity: Of the more than 1,100 affiliates throughout the United States and Canada, there are 320 affiliates that have specific housing programs for veterans.        

Habitat for Humanity Overall Perspective: Works in more than 70 countries helping more than 39 million people improve their living conditions since 1976. Works together with families, communities, volunteers and partners from around the world so people can live in affordable and safe homes. Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity covers the Jasper County effort and began as an of affiliate of Habitat for Humanity in 1989.     

Decision-making: Key factor is funding. Since 2006, General Mills has supported work in the Joplin area. General Mills donated a large grant to the latest Veterans Build, an insulated concrete forms (ICF) home built with concrete walls, helping to make this home a reality for Marine veteran Tim Peay and his family.      

Basic Criteria: Eligibility with the Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity home-building program is based on having a need for better housing, being with the income guidelines and the willingness to partner by completing “sweat equity” hours. Through an application process, the family selection committee reviews and meets with applicants. If the team believes the candidate is meeting the criteria, then the board of directors of Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity votes.   

Building Process: There’s a dedicated group of professional builders and staff that leads construction efforts. The process includes permits, building and inspections. Coverage is the Jasper County area, with many homes built in Joplin, but some in Webb City, Carthage and Oronogo. The amount of time depends on weather, availability of subs and materials. Having partner families helping with construction is important.      

By the Numbers: Built 179 homes, with 148 of those in the last 11 years. There’s also a light, exterior repair program called A Brush With Kindness that is volunteer-led and has completed more than 350 repairs since 2013. Also, a Critical Home Repair Program is contractor-based and completes more significant repairs for homeowners in need.

Quote from Veteran Tim Peay: “My family and I are so grateful to everyone at Joplin Habitat who helped us with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are so incredibly fortunate, and it’s been a great thing working with everyone on this home. We feel safe, secure and very, very blessed.”