SILVER GROVE, Ky. — The little red brick house sat abandoned and uninhabited for years, all clover-strewn yard outside and paneled blue-green walls within. There wasn’t anything really wrong with it, Felicia Huesman said — no structural problems, nothing unsafe. It was just one among hundreds of uninhabited, aging homes quietly moldering throughout the Tri-State.
City Council wanted to turn it into something better. They knew Huesman, who runs the Covington-based nonprofit the Barracks Project, could make it happen.
And she, in turn, knew exactly what to do: “We’re going to rehab it as a community and donate it to a local veteran family so they don’t have to worry about rent or a mortgage ever again.”
Huesman, whose husband served in the Army, started the Barracks Project in 2016. The group sends monthly care packages to deployed soldiers and provides honorably discharged veterans with food, toiletries and financial help. Its Covington headquarters include a basement living space for veterans without housing and a closet of professional clothes they can wear to job interviews.
The Silver Grove home will be the next step in expanding its mission across the state, but Huesman knew she would need a lot of outside help to get it ready by 2020.
“We had the fire department reach out the second they heard about it and say, ‘We can get the first step started,’” she said.
Campbell County and Melbourne fire crews saw in the aging building a perfect chance to train younger recruits in the fine art of knocking down walls.
“We kind of like to destroy things,” joked assistant Melbourne fire Chief Gerald Tiemeier, himself a Vietnam-era Navy and Marine Corps veteran.
They’re not the only group that’s volunteered to help, Huesman added. St. Elizabeth Finance promised to help redo the yard. Next came the offers from small businesses.
“Our inbox has been flooded with local people (saying,) ‘Hey, we own a plumbing business; let us help with plumbing,’” she said. “‘Hey, we own an HVAC! Let us come clean the HVAC system!’”
Their desire to help is heartening, Huesman said. It gives her hope the idea could be replicated in other local cities where vacant or blighted homes are in need of TLC.
“This will be super cool,” she said. “To see all the different faces that are going to in, for all of us as a community to give a veteran family keys to this and know we all put in sweat and hours here. It’s humbling.”
She thinks the neighbors will appreciate it, too.
Anyone who would like to help the Barracks Project get the house in shape can learn more by sending the group a Facebook message.