Tyson Construction joins Southern Living and Operation Finally Home to build a home for a wounded veteran and his family.
The central portion of the home consists of an open floor plan that includes the living, dining and kitchen areas. JC Penney furnished the entire house and provided useful appliances such as a KitchenAid mixer and a Keurig coffeemaker.
SARA ESSEX BRADLEY
For many people, a new home is part of the American dream. Thanks to Operation Finally Home, a national nonprofit dedicated to building homes for wounded and ill vets and spouses of fallen vets and locally owned and operated Tyson Construction, that dream recently came true for U.S. Army Sgt. Nathan Young and his family. On Jan. 15, the Youngs (Nathan; wife Tabitha; 13-year old daughter Emme and service-dog Maggie) became the proud owners of a mortgage-free (meaning cost-free to the owners) home, custom-designed and built to accommodate their needs.
Founded 10 years ago by Houston builder Dan Wallrath, after Wallrath was hired to help make a wheelchair-bound veteran’s home more comfortable and user-friendly for his disabilities, OFH has helped build 96 homes in 26 states. The Youngs’ house, located in Luling, is the first in Louisiana.
Tyson’s involvement with the project is directly related to its work with Southern Living magazine’s Custom Builder Program, an exclusive invitation-only program in which Tyson has participated for seven years. In 2014, OFH and Southern Living asked the 23-year old construction company if they would be interested in building a home for a medically retired veteran who wanted to relocate to the New Orleans area. “We of course said yes, and from then on, we have been working behind-the-scenes with our team of local subcontractors, vendors and suppliers to help with donations for the construction of the home,” says Zachary Tyson, who co-owns the business with his parents, Larry and Patricia.
The Youngs themselves learned about OFH through a serendipitous event. Several years ago, Tabitha attended a country music concert where the lucky recipient of an OFH home was announced. That inspired her to find out more and ultimately to apply for the program. Nathan served two tours in Iraq, where he sustained traumatic brain and spinal injuries. He also suffers from PTSD. Tabitha is his caregiver. The following year, after a lengthy vetting process, OFH invited the Youngs to tour the New Orleans Saints training facility, as Nathan is an avid fan. There, the Youngs received the good news that they would be receiving their own custom home. “They like to surprise you,” says Tabitha. “They said we were coming for an interview, but they had already picked us.”
With help from numerous local suppliers and tradespeople, Tyson broke ground in September and finished the entire house in just four months. The family plans to move in this spring after Emme finishes the school year and Nathan and Tabitha graduate from Southern Wesleyan University (in South Carolina).
Custom features include wide doorways and flat thresholds for wheelchair accessibility; a wheelchair-accessible shower; stained concrete floors that are both durable and more hypoallergenic than carpet; a Mitsubishi remote-control AC system that enables temperature control in individual rooms; an oversized two-car garage; soothing paint colors; a third bedroom built as a mother-in-law suite for Tabitha’s parents; and a soundproof, dark room designed to ease the pain of migraine headaches, a side-effect of Nathan’s injuries.
Interior designer Maria Barcelona of Maria Barcelona Interiors in River Ridge worked with the Youngs – who filled out a questionnaire about their style preferences – and JC Penney, which provided all furniture and accessories, to decorate the house. One of the family’s favorite design touches is the rustic reclaimed wood used to panel both the kitchen island and the tub in the master bath. Emme is also fond of the view provided by the glass doors overlooking the backyard. Yet the thing they love the most is hidden from sight. After the house was framed, OFH, Southern Living and Tyson hosted a “Notes of Love Day,” where anyone involved with the building of the home could come and write messages and wishes for the Young family on the studs. “One hundred years from now when someone comes in and pulls out the sheetrock, they’ll find the notes,” says Nathan, considering not only what the notes have meant to his family, but their historic significance as well.
The United Way of St. Charles, St. Charles Lighting, D&M Plastering, RSG Roofing Supply, VinylTech, Intrepid Stone, Martin’s Garden Center, Parrish Construction, Ideal Appliances and many other local businesses generously donated to the building of the home. “Everyone donated or deeply discounted the labor,” says Larry Tyson. Chicago-area relatives of Patricia’s even provided a check for stocking the pantry.
At the January ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Youngs were honored to shake hands with many of the people who worked on the home. “We met some wonderful people,” says Nathan. Those who made the home a reality feel equally privileged. “We jumped at the chance to be part of this,” says Larry. “The whole purpose is to build mortgage-free houses. It’s a platform that brings all the pieces and parts together.”
The master bath has dual his-and-her sinks; a roomy, wheelchair-accessible shower, and a tub paneled with rustic, reclaimed wood.
A soothing wall of pale green frames the glass doors that overlook the backyard.
A pedestal dining table with six chairs and a sideboard furnish the dining area.
Martin’s Garden Center designed and installed the home’s landscaping.
Daughter Emme’s room is decorated with lively turquoise walls and a bright paisley bedspread.
Masculine browns balanced with softer notes of blue and multiple layers and textures of bed linens create an inviting environment in the master bedroom.
The kitchen island’s weathered wood and marble top, supported by decorative brackets, adds architectural interest and the patina of age to the brand-new home. The reuse of salvaged, vintage materials including wood, hardware and doors from architectural shops and antique stores is a hallmark of Tyson Construction homes.