Update on Joe Wilkinson home project

By Walt McClure Tunnel to Towers Foundation

We have an update on the project to build a wounded Rensselaer County warrior a new home.

The plan is for Tech Sgt. Joe Wilkinson and his family to be in their new home by Christmas, and while there is a lot of work to do, those in charge say it can be done.

Tuesday was another busy day at the Averill Park construction site that will soon be the Wilkinson family home, and give Joe Wilkinson the ability to do things he hasn’t been able to do since he lost the use of his legs and became wheelchair-bound.

“Honestly, just to have independence in basically everything. I’m not relying on my children and my wife as much,” said Wilkinson.

A lot of the needs for the house, from 60 gallons paint that will cover the walls, to manpower and beyond, are being donated, although it has still required several hundred dollars to make happen.

Many of those involved in the project have military backgrounds and fully appreciate what Wilkinson has done for his country.

“It was a good experience,” said Steven Noel of A-Z Landscaping. “I’m prior military, so it’s always nice to give back and we appreciate what he’s done for us. It’s always nice to give back what we can.”

This will be the seventh home built this year for a wounded war vet by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation, this one spearheaded by John Ponte after he met Wilkinson almost exactly two years ago.

“We feel for these kids,” said Ponte of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. “We want to thank them for their service, and we appreciate the sacrifices that they have made for this country, and this is just a small token of appreciation on our part.”

Ponte says many vendors and builders have reached out to them after hearing Joe’s story.

Among them, Dave Bouyea and VP Supply, which is coordinating the plumbing and heating and cooling needs for the house.

“This young man’s done so much and given so much for our country that the least that any of us can do is help out in any way possible,” said Bouyea.

That’s something at which a humble Joe Wilkinson still marvels.

“It’s a tough economy,” said Wilkinson, “and like I said, I can’t say thank you enough. We all have mouths to feed these days, and what they’ve stepped up and done, it’s just incredible.”

Ponte has actually moved here temporarily from Staten Island to get this project finished.

He also says this will be the quickest house they’ve done: from groundbreaking on September 22 to when the Wilkinsons get the keys and hopefully move in before December 25.

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