Turning Dreams of Homeownership into Reality for Injured War Veterans

SCE employees and the nonprofit Homes for Our Troops collaborate to help raise funds to build homes for wounded vets.

September 05, 2014 | By Caroline Aoyagi-Stom @SCE_CarolineA

Three years ago, Marine Corporal Justin Crabbe, 25, was on patrol in Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), losing both of his legs and part of his left hand. On a respirator for 19 days and in the Intensive Care Unit for 13 weeks, his parents were told twice their son may not make it through the night. 

But after months of therapy and healing, Justin is now working part-time at a food distribution company, hunting, fishing and snowboarding during off days, and spending time with his girlfriend. He’s also about to become a homeowner of a house provided by the nonprofit Homes for Our Troops

“I’ve always been independent and because of this injury … I still want to be independent. I don’t want to have to depend on someone having to do everything for me,” said Justin. “This new home would be such a tremendous help for me.”

Justin’s mother is Maureen Crabbe, a manager in Customer Service at Southern California Edison (SCE) for the past 31 years. Shortly after her son’s devastating injury, Maureen learned that her co-workers had donated vacation hours so she could spend more than a year taking care of her son. 

Recently, she learned her co-workers were once again rallying around her son, Justin, and other heroic veterans by holding a fundraiser for Homes for Our Troops. On Sept. 30, SCE’s Customer Service department is hosting a mini-golf and cookout event with all of the funds going to the nonprofit.

“We are recognizing all of these veterans who have served selflessly and sacrificed their physical selves,” said Jordan Sugar, SCE program manager in Customer Service, who is helping to organize the event. “We want to let them know their efforts have not been forgotten and it’s a great way to recognize our heroes amongst us.”

Homes for Our Troops was founded in 2004 and has so far built 167 homes for injured veterans. Working with the vets who are selected through a rigorous application process, a plot of land is selected and then a construction crew builds the customized homes. Lowered shelves, slide-in sinks and showers and automated doors are just some of the specialized features.

The goal is to provide a house that allows the veterans to live independently in a safe environment.

“At Homes for Our Troops, we believe that building homes for injured veterans is not charity, it’s our duty,” said Patty Catalano, Homes for Our Troops deputy director of Marketing. “Spreading the word about Homes for Our Troops and holding fundraisers for our cause is so important because we rely mainly on community support and individual donations to complete this very important mission. 

“We would love to be able to close our doors for good, but that cannot happen until every severely injured veteran and their families have a mortgage-free, specially adapted home.” 

Justin’s new home in Yucaipa broke ground in March with a celebration attended by over 200 people, including the city’s mayor. A community volunteer event is planned for Oct. 19 where folks can lend a hand planting his new yard. The official key ceremony, and when Justin will be moving in, is scheduled for Nov. 16.

“These guys are resilient. They have a can-do attitude and there’s no ‘why me?’” said Maureen. “They are incredible. What more truly deserving folks to get these homes.”

Door-to-door, Justin’s new house will be 39 miles from his parents’ home in Rancho Cucamonga. Because of the distance, Maureen and her husband plan to look at homes in the Yucaipa area once they retire so they can be closer to their son. 

Just a year ago, Maureen would still find herself worrying about her son and whether he was doing OK both physically and emotionally. But now she sees a big difference in her son’s level of confidence after he learned he would soon be a homeowner.

“He is doing awesome and has come so far. It is absolutely so heartwarming, such a relief, to know my son is safe,” she said. “Just knowing that this house is being built for him, he has blossomed. It has changed his whole mindset and he has come full-circle.”

Organizers of the employee fundraiser hope to raise more than $1,000 for Homes for Our Troops. So far, about half of the mini-golf and cookout slots have been filled. Maureen plans to be there, not only to support her son, Justin, but all the young men and women who have bravely served. 

“Just knowing that [my co-workers] are doing this for our veterans just warms my heart,” she said. “Showing appreciation for all the men and women who have given so selflessly, often giving their lives.”

Maureen also sees it as another opportunity to thank her co-workers for the support she has received the past few years. 

“We’ve come a long way in three years,” she said. “What [my co-workers] have done for me personally, there are no words to say thank you enough.”