STEPS2HOPE: The Smith's finally get keys to new home - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

STEPS2HOPE: The Smith's finally get keys to new home

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SATURDAY UPDATE:  After 9 long days of working, volunteers with Steps2Hope were finally able to see their hard work pay off, as Jason and Lauren Smith were finally given the keys to their new home.

Channel 3's cameras were rolling as they walked into their new home for the first time.  

After waiting nine days, The Smith's were finally given the keys to their new home.

Turning the pile of dirt into a dream come true.

"I don't think anybody would believe that. It looks like it's been here for awhile," said Jason Smith.

Their new home will host years of memories just waiting to happen.

"One memory we've already made. I was able to carry her through the doorway," said Jason Smith.    

"It was unbelievable, words can't describe it," said Jason Smith. 

"It was gorgeous," said Lauren Smith.

A labor of nothing but love from everyone involved.

"You can feel the love from the walls," said Jason Smith.

"I can't get this grin off my face," said Lauren Smith.

"That people love us enough to come together to do this for us. We didn't ask for this," said Jason Smith.

But they couldn't be more thankful to the community who made it happen.

"Thank you, thank you. God Bless," said Jason Smith.

The family of three is all moved in and enjoying the first night in their new home.

:  This is the last day for volunteers to complete the house for wounded veteran Sgt. Jason Smith.

The big question of the day --will all this work be done in time?

"Of course," says Steps2Hope founder Mark Wilson, "We don't have a choice."

On the last work day before the big reveal it's all about the final touch ups. Volunteers are c
leaning up the yard and adding the last coat of paint... Even though Sgt. Jason Smith says there's no rush.

“You know I don't even care if it's done on time, it looks great." Smith said, "I'll live in it right now!”

Jason has been kept out of the house so everything inside will be surprise.

He's spent his time on site thanking all the volunteers.

On some nights -- people stayed to work on the house into the early morning hours.

“The fact that people want to take time out of their day, their busy schedules to come up here and help a family they don't even know, for the simple fact that i was hurt overseas, you know it's beautiful,” Smith said.

More than 900 volunteers showed up to do their part during the nine day build.

It's because of their hard work that Jason and his family will have a home that meets their needs.

“I'm going to wake up, get these keys and I'm going to sleep there that night,” said Smith.

Jason's will get the keys to his dream home is less than 24 hours.

The community is invited to be there for the big reveal.

“We'll do an open house and let people walk through the house and see what they have done as a community," Wilson said, "Because it's not us, it's the people who came from out of town who came to work, it's the people that gave us donations, it's the people that just come and say i don't have any money but i want to come work.”

While many of the volunteers are working on the finishing touches -- something special happened in the room for Jason and Lauren's daughter Lyla.
The charity group called Special Spaces typically builds dream rooms for young children with life-threatening illnesses  while Lyla is a healthy little girl, the group wanted to help the Smith family the only way they knew how.

“Quite often when we do a room for a child with life-threatening illnesses there is always a shadow," said Anne Strunk of Special Spaces, "
These children are hurting, they are very ill, and this is just pure joy.”

Special Spaces Chattanooga is building a room unlike any other room they've ever built before.  

Volunteers with the charity asked to design the bedroom for Jason and Lauren's five-month old daughter Lyla.

Jason and his family have no idea Lauren's dream room designs were given to the designers at special spaces.

“She and I sat down and she kind of did the design, off of Lauren's dream room," Strunk said, "And then we just kind of blossomed from there.”

Anne Strunk's sisters from out of town helped special spaces raise $2,400 to make Lyla's dream room a reality.

“We want her to feel the love of all the people that have worked in this room, and all the hours of planning work that it was," Strunk said, "And we just want her to feel completely and totally loved.”

Like many of the big surprises in the Steps2Hope home build, Channel 3 is keeping what's inside the room a secret.

But in less than 24 hours everyone will get to see the look on Jason and Lauren's faces when these secrets are revealed.

“We just want her to walk in and feel wow, this is where we want to raise our baby,” said Strunk.

The open house will be at the build site Saturday morning at 10:30 am.

That's when jason will get the new keys to his home and he will get to see all the surprises people have been keeping secret all week long. 

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: Crews are using the final hours to put the finishing touches on Jason's new home. 

Some of the most memorable stories at the Steps2Hope build site come from the volunteers who chose to be here and make this home build happen for a local wounded soldier.

Like Tom Matuszak for example. He lives a couple miles away and has dedicated the last 15 years of his life to mission work for service members. He's traveled around the world and for the first time, he's able to help out one of his own neighbors.

“I can travel 15 minutes to the job site. I'm here first thing in the morning making coffee,” Matuszak said, “We are not here to sit at home and read the newspaper and watch the Channel 3 news. We're called to take what you say on the Channel 3 news and get out and participate.”

Matuszak has seven family members who have been or are currently in the military so this is a cause that he holds dear to his heart, like many of the other volunteers at this site.

Don't miss the big reveal on Saturday, where they will hand over the keys to Jason and his wife. It all kicks off at 10:30 am. 

DAY 8 UPDATE:  A 99-year-old woman had one of her daughters drive her to the build site because she wanted to hammer in one nail in this home for Sgt. Smith.

"I saw this in the paper I thought, I've got to go hit one nail, somewhere," said Grandma Jo.

Born in 1916, Josephine Wotasek, better known as "Grandma Jo" will turn 100 years old in February. 

She came from Fort Ogelthorpe to do her part in building this home for Sgt. Jason smith. 
"I don't care where the nail goes," she said, "The only thing is... I need a left-handed hammer.

READ MORE | Grandma Jo helps out Steps2Hope

DAY 7 UPDATE:We're still trying to keep the interior of the home a surprise for Jason and his wife

But what we do know is the laundry room inside this home doubles as a tornado shelter.

It's located in the center of the home and is completely surrounded by concrete making it the safest room in this house.

You may remember a tornado ripped through this area of Ringgold back in 2011...

For The President of Steps2Hope, Mark Wilson.. This is something that hits home for him.. After his son was hurt in a tornado at Union University.

It was the compassion from that experience that motivated him to create Steps2Hope and with that, came a promise: Wilson would never build another home without a tornado shelter.

Wilson included one in Andrew and Tori's home two years ago and now this home for Jason Smith, his wife and daughter should the event ever happen, they will be as safe as possible.

The majority of the work left to be done is inside the home. On Tuesday cabinets were installed, rooms painted and tile is laid in the bathrooms. 

This is the part of the build that is being kept secret from Jason Smith and his family. Jason says despite his best efforts to get a peek inside, he has no clue what his new home will look like. 

"I'm not going to lie, I've tried to peek a little bit," Jason Smith said jokingly, "Kind of look around, but yea we don't know anything yet, it's going to be awesome."

On day six of the build, Jason and Lauren Smith can only watch as workers move in and out of their soon to be home. 

Channel 3 is even keeping what's behind these walls a secret until the big reveal. 

Despite not knowing what's inside, Jason says he knows his home is being built by the best. 
"It's just beautiful. It's amazing. There's so much love out here," he said.

Including the love from fellow wounded veteran Andrew Smith. 

Andrew and Tori live in the first home Steps2Hope built nearly 2 years ago. Andrew lost both of his legs while serving in Afghanistan. 

They know exactly how Jason and Lauren are feeling. 

"I'd stare at people's shirts to see what color the paint was of our house because we had no idea," Tori Smith said, "So I know it's a trying time for Jason and Lauren but it's so worth it, it's such a blessing."

Andrew and Tori's charity foundation called Honoring The Sacrifice donated $15.000 toward construction of Jason's new home

"As a fellow veteran, as a fellow wounded soldier, it was just really cool for me to be able to help out another brother in arms," Andrew Smith said.

And now those brothers will be neighbors. 

Jason and Lauren will live just two miles from Andrew and Tori. 

The two families first bonded through their shared sacrifice and they plan to stay close, thanks in part to Steps2Hope. 

"It's not common for two wounded warriors who both lost their legs to live two miles apart," Tori said, "Both be from the Chattanooga area, both have the last name Smith, so this is really cool and a blessing that Steps2Hope is, so this is awesome."

Andrew and Tori's started their foundation, Honoring The Sacrifice, to give back after Steps2Hope did so much for them. 

They have a big fundraiser coming up on June 5th. For more information, click here.

People at the build site are getting ready for the final 3 days of work -- and volunteers are needed now more than ever. 

The next few days will involve a lot of painting and yard work so if you can help out in any way come over to the build site and they will put you to work.  

TUESDAY UPDATE: Tuesday marks day six of the Steps2Hope build for a local wounded veteran. The local non-profit was asking for professional painters Tuesday morning to help with the interior of the home.

During each day of the build there are at least 50 volunteers working on the home at any given time, but the community support hasn't stopped there.

A number of local businesses have helped out behind the scenes to make sure volunteers at the work site are taken care of.

HOW YOU CAN HELP | Steps 2 Hope volunteer info

A group of workers from Vision Hospitality Group watched as more than 80 volunteers from out of state came to Ringgold to build Sgt. Jason Smith a new house.

Most of the volunteers from out of state are firefighters, police officers and veterans.

"Well I know months ago when I heard about the project we realized there were folks coming in from all over the country," said Jeff Mochel.

Vision Hospitality Group paid for 80 people to stay at nearby hotels during the home build.

It also organized lunch and dinner each day -- usually catered by a local restaurant.

Beginning Thursday, they're trying to get a big group of people to begin work on landscaping. If you can lay sod, plant flowers or spread mulch, they'd love to see you.

Sgt. Jason Smith and his wife Lauren are not allowed inside the home or past the driveway until Saturday's big reveal.

MONDAY UPDATE: Volunteers are the heart of the Steps2Hope project many eager to offer a hand, in any way they can."We're running sprints and not marathons. We may work you hard for 20 minutes, and it may be 20 minutes before we need you again."

But as the sun starts to set, many head home, after a hard day of work.
"Little slow in the evenings, we could use a little more help than we've had."

They're looking for all skill levels saying there's enough work to go around.
"Clean up, carrying product that they need. Clean scraps out."

HOW YOU CAN HELP | Steps 2 Hope volunteer info

If you're less handy, but still wanting to help out volunteers set up for the next day at night, so that the start of the next will be a smooth one.  

Mark Wilson with Steps2Hope says the next few days they'll need it, with a bountiful amount of yard work ahead of them.
"This is usually a week long landscaping project and we're gonna do it in a day. So we need lots of shovels, lots of backs."

And with all this hard work, means they could always use people to relieve others.
"There's a lot of us here for 12-15 hours, somewhere in there."

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