Neighbors excited, ready to welcome disabled veteran to Appling home

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email
Sean Gittens in wheelchair

The Gittens family says their new home would allow Sgt. Sean Gittens to be more independent. (March 28, 2011 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012

APPLING, Ga. -- There may finally be light at the end of the tunnel for a disabled war veteran and his family.

After controversy with an Evans neighborhood last summer, Homes For Our Troops now has new land to build a house for Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens and his family.

The 3-acre lot was donated, free of charge, by a fellow war veteran.

The home will be built on North Tubman Road near Washington Road in Appling. On Tuesday, News 12 spoke with several neighbors who are thrilled about the Gittens family moving in next door.

Mario Valenzuela, 81, is a Korean War veteran. He was excited to learn Gittens and his family would be building their new home on his street.

"Do you feel like this family is going to be welcomed with open arms?" News 12's Katie Beasley asked.

"I think so. I think so. They'll be welcome as far as I'm concerned, yeah," Valenzuela said.

The Gittens family has been working for years with Homes For Our Troops, a national organization that builds more accessible homes for disabled veterans.

"I wanted to see him be able to get around in his house. I want to see him have more access. He served his country 21 years, honors and dignity. He deserves it," Sharon Gittens told News 12 in June.

This past summer, the family decided not to build in Knob Hill, an Evans neighborhood with strict covenants on the design and size of homes in the area.

Valenzuela said he didn't understand why the neighborhood wouldn't make an exception.

"I think that's not the proper thing to do. He was over there fighting for these people," Valenzuela said. "Especially a veteran. That should be no problem."

But now the family has a new piece of land in Appling just minutes from their old one. It's all thanks to a local businessman who donated the three acres to the family.

For now, he wishes to remain anonymous.

"That's a good deed. He's concerned about the people. I'm really proud of him because people nowadays don't give anything for free," Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela says the Gittens family will feel right at home on his street.

"Just a beautiful neighborhood. All the neighbors are very nice, no problem with them. I wish them the best of luck and I welcome them here," he said.

The landowner told News 12 he was compelled by the family's story this summer and decided to call Homes For Our Troops and offer up the land. He said he wanted to make sure this family got a new home.

Homes For Our Troops is expected to make more announcements about the home later this month.

You can join the build. Volunteers will be pitching in to help Jan. 27 and 28.

Just click the link below for more information.


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