COLUMBIA — Army Sgt. Chris Ruff might be eating turkey and cranberries on top of moving boxes this year.
He and his wife will be moving into a new home on Thanksgiving Day — a three-bedroom ranch built by Habitat for Humanity.
It is the first Habitat home in Columbia given to a veteran, and Ruff said it means a great deal to live in a home of his own.
“We feel like we can’t say thank you enough,” Ruff said. “We’re so grateful.”
In April of this year, Ruff’s father-in-law heard a spot on the radio that Habitat and VA Mortgage Center were looking to build a house for a Columbia veteran.
The center donated $60,000 to Show-Me Central Habitat for Humanity and promised it 300 employee volunteers. In exchange, Habitat agreed to reserve its next lot for a veteran.
“Normally the applications are opened to anyone that has a need, is low income and is willing to partner up with Habitat,” said Chris Lunn, a project coordinator. “Chris was a veteran and met all these needs. We ended up taking him pretty quickly.”
Ruff’s new space is about four times the size of the apartment he and his wife, Anne Case-Halferty, are renting. Because of the Veteran Build Project, his mortgage will be around $300 a month, including insurance and taxes.
Ruff and Case-Halferty have already made their down payment. Like all Habitat homeowners, the couple was required to put 350 “sweat equity” hours into the construction project.
“Chris didn’t know much about building when he first came in,” said Erv Mertzlufft, a longtime volunteer for Habitat. “Now I suspect he could probably get a job on most construction sites today.”
Ruff’s fast on-site apprenticeship will help him pay the favor forward before graduation. There are 15 to 20 Habitat lots near his home off Creasy Springs Road, and the Veteran Build Project is looking for new applicants.
“It’s nice because I only live a few feet away,” Ruff said. “I hope to put in the hours when I can.”