The home, built in one week, is the product of
about 60 people coming together for the construction of the home.
The work was well organized and progress was made at a rapid pace.
From Sunday July 25th when it was nothing but a concrete slap to
Sunday August 1st when it became a fully finished, fully furnished
home for one of America’s heroes, everything was done perfectly with
great detail and great love.
The home came to Lincoln through a partnership between the local
Central Illinois Veteran’s Commission (CIVC) and an organization out
of Quincy called 2X4’s of Hope.
On Sunday, Mark and Chris Lawrence of 2X4’s of Hope along with
Marsha Fernandes representing the CIVC hosted a ceremony that
included speakers, the official handing over of the key to the home
and a ribbon cutting.
The day began with possibly 200 or more people gathered in the
street in front of the home.
Mark Lawrence thanked all those for coming. He
introduced himself and wife Chris and Fernandes. He explained that
2X4’s works to partner with local organizations such as the CIVC to
bring homes to communities.
Speaking of Fernandes, he noted that she is a CIVC board member who
was hands on through the entire process working side by side with
the many volunteers.
Lawrence brought attention to the extra-large American Flag flying
over the building lot courtesy of the Lincoln Rural Fire Protection
District. He then said that there would be a flag presenting
ceremony as two veterans came walking up the new sidewalk to the
home and mounted an American Flag and a United States Army flag on
the porch's two pillar posts. Local songstress Lesleigh Bennett then
sang the National Anthem as all stood at attention for the two
Pastor Dan McQuality of the Grace Lutheran Church,
who is also a veteran, was called on to bless the home. McQuality’s
church is located just one block north of the new tiny home.
As Lawrence introduced McQuality he said that the entire home
building process was founded in prayer and with God’s hand in it. He
said that applause and praise for what has been accomplished
belonged not to the people, but to the Lord who led them to do this
McQuality then offered a prayer thanking God for all those gathered
and also for God’s protection over our soldiers and our country. He
asked that the Lord bless the home and all those who labored in love
to make it so.
Lawrence then called on Pastor Tony Byrd from
Madison. Byrd is a recipient of a home recently built in Madison. He
said that Byrd had a special message and was always a blessing to
all each time he spoke.
Byrd opened with a greeting and sought a response as to being
thankful for the day. He said that we were all blessed because we
woke up this morning, then explained that God never promises that we
will wake up each morning, which is why we should do all that we can
today, not leaving anything for tomorrow.
He noted that the Bible says “if you love me” clothe the people,
feed the people, and put a roof over their heads. He went on to say
that some believe that because one doesn’t have a home that person
is down trodden and with nothing. He said that is not always the
case. Not having a home can be a matter of circumstance at the
moment, but it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. He said in his
own life, he made the decision to give away all that he owned, and
trust that God would provide for him. He quoted the Bible, "Seek you
first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto
After Byrd spoke, Lawrence asked for a show of hands of all the
veterans in the crowd. He applauded the many hands that went up.
Lawrence went on to talk about the recipient, Scott Jackson. He said
that last week Jackson had been very overwhelmed by the actions that
started last week. Jackson was amazed by the number of people that
came out to construct his home. He said that as of that moment,
Jackson had not seen the home since he was on the construction site
last Sunday. It has come a long way since those first two days.
Lawrence said that this would be Jackson’s forever home. It would
belong only to him, and no one would ever be able to take it away.
Jackson was called on to speak next. The man of few words was
touched to the point he could not contain his emotions. He spoke
briefly saying that he wanted to thank all that had been a part of
the build and a part of this day. He said, “I love you all.”
Jackson said he would from this moment on work to 'pay it forward'
all the gifts he has been given. He said that he had come across an
old friend from Fulton County out of the blue and had told the
friend what was being done for him. That friend, also a veteran, was
moved and curious how could he get this kind of program in Fulton
County. Jackson said in paying it forward, he vowed to help his
friend as much as possible, giving him all the information he could
gather together and helping him to connect with the Lawrences. He
said he would continue to do so in the future each time he had the
chance. He ended with a very emotional second expression of
gratitude saying again, “I love you all, and thank you so much.”
Veteran and Mayor Tracy Welch and wife Annette were
called to the front next. Lawrence said he wondered how many mayors
there were who would show up at a building site like this and work
their fingers to the bone to help a member of his community.
Lawrence felt the gift was remarkable.
Welch spoke about being a kid signing up to serve in the military.
He said, “I didn’t know what I was doing, but what I was doing was
becoming a part of a brotherhood.” Welch said that talking with the
group quite some time before the first home was ever started he
recognized the value of this project and he felt “more than honored”
that he was asked to be a part of it.
Annette Welch, who is also a county board member
spoke as well. She said that Tracy had asked her to tag along to
that first meeting. She was amazed at how the Lawrence's, who have
no vested interest in Logan County or Lincoln, were willing to bring
this program to town and organize this built to the benefit of a
Throughout the ceremony, Lawrence had been asking if Fernandes was
ready yet to speak, and she declined to almost the end, when he told
her that she had to now come forward. Fernandes explained that Joe
Schaler, who is the leader of the CIVC, was en route to a national
meeting of the Purple Heart in Virginia. She said he had not wanted
to leave, but Purple Heart is also a very important part of the work
Schaler does and a choice had to be made.
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Fernandes also expressed gratitude to all the
volunteers from the community and to the crew that came with the
Lawrence's to guide the building project and work beside the
volunteers to build a strong structure.
Fernandes noted that there were future homes in the works, and that
the hope was that the next building project would come in September.
Later, Lawrence said that the hope is indeed for
September, but there is an obstacle. He said that building materials
were scarce and right now they had no promises that they would have
materials for another build this fall.
Lawrence also noted that the Lincoln building project had gotten the
attention of other communities. He noted that three other
communities had come to him during this project and asked how they
could get the veteran homes in their towns. Lawrence said that is
how they work. They have never gone to a community and had to ask
‘Can we come build.” It has been 100 percent communities coming to
them and asking “Will you build.”
Chris Lawrence spoke next encouraging every guest in
the audience to “wrap your arms around him (Jackson) and hold him
close to you.” She went on to say that every veteran in this country
deserves to have a home, a place that is theirs and a place to call
Next came a presentation by Quilts of Valor. Lenae
Bussler and Lynn Eaton from Delavan. Both women are members of the
Delavan Quilt Guild and Quilts of Valor. Bussler thanked the
Lawrence's for having them, and talked about the Quilts of Valor.
The goal of the organization is to provide a handmade quilt to every
American Veteran as a show of being welcomed home with love and
gratitude. Quilts of Valor have been presented to 275,987 veterans.
She explained the layers of the quilt. The many individual pieces
sewn together represent the “many different individuals that we
are.” The batting symbolizes warmth and love that it is hoped each
veteran feels when presented with the quilt. The back layer of the
quilt represents the strength of the veteran and the community. The
stitches binding the layers represent the “love, gratitude and
sometimes tears of the maker.”
She ended saying the quilt was meant to show honor for their service
to the country to the veteran upon who's shoulders it is laid. She
said that it was to bring comfort and a reminder to the veteran of
all that love and appreciate that veteran’s service and sacrifice.
Bussler had asked that both Jackson and Welch join
her at the edge of the porch. When she was finished, in a very
emotional moment Jackson’s granddaughter Tori Geriets draped the
red, white and blue quilt on her grandpa’s shoulders, while a second
quilt was draped on Welch.
Then came the time that Jackson was waiting for. Lawrence said while
Jackson was anxious to get the key, Lawrence himself was not going
to hand it to him. Instead, the key was given to Welch. The group
then approached the patriotic ribbon stretched across the front
After a countdown, the ribbon was snipped by Jackson
with assistance from Welch. Then Welch handed the key to Jackson so
that he could enter his new home for the first time.
The first people to go inside the home were family members including
daughter Christy Fruge and her children Ryan, Jackson and Tori, and
his step-son Brad.
Christy Fruge noted that she was very excited to have dad back in
Lincoln and to get him settled in to his permanent home.
Inside the home there was yet another surprise. Monday would be
Scott’s birthday and daughter Christy had a cake with lit candles
for her dad to blow out. As the family went through the home they
admired the color of the walls, the furnishings, the appliances and
it was noted that even the refrigerator had been fully stocked and
there was a toothbrush in the bathroom.
The home consists of a well-appointed open floor plan kitchen dining
area and living room. There is a laundry room adjoining the bathroom
and a nice sized bedroom.
On the bed was a collection of photos that depicted Scott’s history
from the birth of his daughter to one particular picture of Scott in
his army fatigues and daughter Christy dressed similarly.
A portion of the living room furnishings included a large recliner.
Mark Lawrence encouraged Jackson to check it out and he did so
gladly. Jackson was asked what he thought of his home and his words
were an exuberant “They did wonderful!”
After close family had the chance to see the home, the others
waiting outside were invited to come in as well. The home is
decorated with red white and blue throughout. Outside the soil has
been covered with sod for an instant lawn, there are plantings and
landscaping along the edge of the home, and beautiful potted plants
on the porch and a wreath on the door.
At the edge of the porch is a testament to the service of the
homeowner, a large cement disk is a duplicate of the United States
Congratulation Scott Jackson on your new home, and thank you for
your service to your country.