VICKSBURG, MS - This is a news release from Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
Steve Williams spent 18 years in the Navy, most of that with a Navy Construction Battalion.
As a "Seabee," Mr. Williams was deployed in 2007 to Iraq where he did contingency construction for special operations forces, including the building of hangar bays for the 82nd Airborne and barracks for the Navy Seals.
Mr. Williams injured his back during his Iraq deployment while placing concrete T-walls — large concrete slabs used as protection around the perimeter of buildings. A crane would help Seabees working on the ground to position the walls.
"A cable broke on a crane when I was placing the T-wall," he said. "I had to push another Seabee out of the way. The T-wall came crashing down to the ground. It didn't come down on top of me, but I was still hooked up to it. I had my hands and arms on it and hurt my lower back."
Gertrude Young, housing director for the city of Vicksburg, said Mr. Williams is considered 80 percent disabled due to the injury he sustained. While he's still able to work — he currently drives a truck — he is the sole provider for his wife and five children, who range in age from 11 to 18.
Mr. Williams recently received a $7,500 Housing Assistance for Veterans (HAVEN) grant from Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) and RiverHills Bank which allowed for extensive repairs of his home.
"We are very fortunate and very appreciative of the grant," Mr. Williams said. "It means a lot because we don't have the finances to hire someone to come out and do the work to the house."
HAVEN is a unique grant program offered by FHLB Dallas through its member institutions, such as RiverHills Bank, that targets veterans and active duty service members who have been disabled in the line of duty since September 11, 2001. It provides grants up to $7,500 to support necessary home modifications. To qualify, veterans must also meet income eligibility requirements.
The grant to Mr. Williams is the first HAVEN grant awarded in Mississippi.
"We're so excited to have been involved in helping Mr. Williams get his house repaired," said RiverHills Bank President and COO Joel Horton. "These renovations have greatly improved the living conditions for the Williams family. He's done so much for our country and we're just glad to be involved in helping in some small way."
When Mr. Williams' wife, Cortrina Williams, learned about the HAVEN grant, she reached out to the city of Vicksburg to see if she could qualify for a grant to help with her home. Ms. Young told her about the HAVEN grant, and the couple decided to apply and found out they qualified.
The city learned about the HAVEN grant during one of FHLB Dallas' Community Investment workshops, during which information is provided on various FHLB Dallas grant programs. Ms. Young approached RiverHills about pursuing a HAVEN grant, and the bank agreed.
"We have a lot of service people who live in Vicksburg," Ms. Young said of the city, which worked with RiverHills Bank to administer the grant. "We couldn't help but get involved because we are a community of civil servants."
Eddie Ross, owner of Ross Construction, said the condition of the Williams' home was about an 8 on a scale of 10, with 10 being the worst.
Water damage was a major problem. Mr. Ross said his construction crew redid the flooring, ceiling, and walls in the laundry room, and a ceiling, wall, and flooring in a bedroom. Work also included removal of aluminum siding along the back of the house, which was replaced with a concrete siding. A porch overhang was replaced, the roof was patched, and the kitchen ceiling was removed and replaced. Several rooms received new paint.
Mr. Ross said his company donated additional work to the Williams family beyond the scope of the grant.
"We are going beyond the call of duty because we know it is important to give them a whole new washroom and bedroom," he said. "It feels good to be helping a veteran."