Central Illinois Veterans Commissions hosts groundbreaking for two veteran tiny homes in Atlanta

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[June 10, 2024] 

The weather was great for a groundbreaking ceremony on June 6th. The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. If the wind had blown a bit less, one could say that the weather was perfect. This was the day the Central Illinois Veterans Commission (CIVC) chose to break ground on the two new tiny homes that are going to be built in Atlanta. Houses six and seven, also known as the Rob and Mike houses, will be the first two tiny homes that CIVC has built outside of Lincoln.

Speaker Ret. Lt. Col. Jim Allen introduced himself to the audience and spoke a bit on CIVC, their late founder, Joe Schaler, and their mission of, among other things, providing housing to veterans in Central Illinois.

Allen then introduced the five people who were to break the ground, those people being: property donors Atlanta Mayor Adam McVey and wife Linda, Spud Newhouse, the volunteer home construction lead, Stephen Watts, a CIVC board member and retired Air Force veteran, and Sarah Sundra, daughter of Joe Schaler.

Video – Opening remarks at the CIVC Tiny Home Groundbreaking in Atlanta by Ret. Lt. Col. Jim Allen

Video – How the two Atlanta homes came to be named the Rob and Mike Houses

After the ground was broken, Allen explained why these particular tiny houses were going to be called the Rob house and the Mike House. Robert Griffith was an Army soldier out of Colorado. He was deployed to the war in Iraq three separate times, which took a huge toll on Griffith’s mental health. When Griffith was only 24, he took his own life as a result of the stress he endured being deployed three times.

Michael Hancock was a Marine stationed in North Carolina. Due to contaminated water at the military base he was stationed at, Hancock ended up being diagnosed with esophageal cancer at the age of 57.

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Allen then went on to explain that, in the Spring of 2023, the late Joe Schaler was a speaker at the Memorial Day celebration in Atlanta, talking about the tiny houses that CIVC had built up to that point. Griffith’s aunt and Hancock’s sister were in the audience, inspired by the work Schaler and the CIVC were doing. One thing led to another, and the next two CIVC homes were dedicated to Sergeant Robert John Griffith and Gunnery Sergeant Michael Ray Hancock. Allen followed these stories up with a moment of silence to honor Rob, Mike, and Joe.

Allen then invited Pastor Henry Johnson of Eminence Christian Church to come up and lead everyone in prayer of dedication for the project.

After the prayer, Allen dismissed the audience and invited anyone who had not signed or left an encouraging message on one of the 2x4s to come forward and do so.

Like with the other tiny home projects the CIVC has completed so far, these 2x4s with names and messages are going to be used in the construction of the tiny homes.

[Matt Boutcher]

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