AUGUSTA — Vietnam veteran Buddy Jodrey credits an angel in the laundromat for helping him find the hillside spot in Cony Village where he and his 8-year-old daughter, Sophia, will make their home.
Jodrey, an Army veteran who walks with a cane thanks to a back injury suffered while on duty with the National Guard, and who also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was folding his clothes in an Augusta laundromat recently when a woman there struck up a brief conversation. When she learned he was looking for a place to live because the Hallowell home he owns is falling apart, she suggested looking into Bread of Life Ministries programs that help veterans find housing.
He did, and he soon will be the proud owner of a planned two-bedroom, energy-efficient home in Cony Village, the first to be built through a new program meant to help veterans and their families acquire their own homes.
Once he started meeting people in the Bread of Life program, he figured he’d meet the mystery woman who suggested them. He hasn’t, and no one with Bread of Life has any idea who she was, either, he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, I was talking to an angel,” that day in the laundromat, the 62-year-old Jodrey said at groundbreaking ceremonies for the home meant to highlight the new veterans’ housing program. Nearby, Sophia held on to a gold-painted shovel, used in the ceremony, with a yellow ribbon tied to it.
Veterans won’t be given the homes — they’ll be responsible for paying their mortgages — but they will be able to get them at discounted rates, and with other assistance such as, in Jodrey’s case, no down payment.
“No down payment, so none of this 20 percent down; that’s a killer,” Jodrey said. “Who has got 20 percent of a $100,000-plus home sitting in the bank?”
Dean LaChance, executive director of Bread of Life, which developed Cony Village with partner Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, said veterans who buy a house and have it built in the village just off Cony Road will get a home worth about $130,000, for $112,500.
“It’s cheaper to buy one of these houses, with the discounts, than it is to rent a house here in the city of Augusta,” LaChance said. “And you own it. So there is equity. And pride. Everyone dreams the American dream, of home ownership. And I can’t think of anyone more worthy than veterans who served their country.”
LaChance said the program is unique in Maine in that it helps veterans find homes they can own, not just apartments they can rent.
The discounts will be provided to the first 10 veterans who buy a home in Cony Village with the help of a $125,000 grant from The Home Depot Foundation. Business partners Richard and Tobias Parkhurst will provide money to pay for construction loans for the veterans, and JARR Management owner Bob St. Onge will offer veterans discounts on the cost of building their homes.
Veterans will be able to select home plans to suit their needs, including the need for accessibility for people with disabilities.
Maine first lady Ann LePage, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the project Tuesday, said supporting people who served in the military isn’t just a nice thing to do; it’s the right thing to do.
“It’s a responsibility we all have as Americans,” LePage said of supporting veterans.
The 26-acre site is about three miles from VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus and less than a mile from Cony High School and the Capital Area Technical Center.
Patty Tardiff, chairwoman of the Cony Village board of directors, said the program is an opportunity to give back to veterans who have given so much to the country.
LaChance said he knows the demand for veterans housing is there.
Earlier this year, Augusta city councilors agreed to have the city apply for up to $200,000 in state Community Development Block Grant funding, on behalf of Bread of Life, to help fund the program and keep providing a discount to veterans who buy a home. Grant application materials state that there are more than 2,000 disabled veterans in the Augusta area, 60 percent with low to moderate incomes.
“This represents 1,200 veterans who live in our community, have faithfully served their country, suffered the consequences by returning with some form of disability and may never be able to afford a home of their own,” the application filed by the city and Bread of Life says. “The number of returning veterans is expected to increase as are the number of those who are disabled. The Cony Village Veterans Project is directed specifically towards these disabled veterans and veterans in need.”
Keith Edwards — 621-5647