A military veteran from the Chicago metropolitan area will get the keys to a new home next year thanks to members of the Chicago NFL Players' Association (NFLPA) Former Players' Chapter, Chicago area home builders associations, the Newport Cove community in Lake County and an anonymous donor. The groups have joined together to construct a new home for a military veteran wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq.

"We want to give back," said Reggie Smith, president of the Chicago NFLPA Former Players' Chapter. "It's our way of thanking the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country."

The home will be constructed by custom home builder New American Homes of Hawthorn Woods, Ill., and will be located in Newport Cove, an award-winning planned community of 67 homes located on 42 waterfront acres on the Chain O' Lakes near Antioch. It will be a LIFEhouse™ featuring universal design principles such as no-step entrances, wide doorways and passageways, an accessible bathroom with no-step showers and roll-under sinks, accessible kitchen and laundry, easy-opening windows and doors, and energy-saving features.

"The house is being designed to accommodate the special needs of the wounded veteran," said Rita Unzner, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago. "It will not only be functional, but also beautiful, a place where the vet and his or her family can heal and grow."

LIFEhouse™ is an award-winning collaboration between New American Homes and the IDeA (Inclusive Design and Environmental Research) Center at the State University of New York at Buffalo. LIFEhouse™ homes are 1,992-square-feet with three or four bedrooms and three baths plus a full lower level. The first LIFEhouse™ was built in 2009 in Newport Cove and is open to the public.

"The home building industry has been suffering in this economy," said Susanne Tauke, president of New American Homes. "This is a way of turning lemons into lemonade. Thanks to a very generous donation of seed money and partners like the NFLPA and home builders groups, we are able to work together to create something that will be a wonderful gift for a wounded veteran."

Members of three Chicago area home builders associations (HBAGC, Northern Illinois HBA and Fox Valley HBA) will be donating products and labor for the home.

The project is part of Touchdown for Homes, a nationwide charitable outreach program of the National Association of Home Builders and the NFLPA that brings together local home builders' associations and former NFL players to strengthen communities by building or renovating homes for children or families in need and veterans. Last spring the Chicago NFLPA former players chapter and home builders associations worked together to help renovate Chicago's AMI Kids, an alternative school for troubled children.

"Our home builders want to use their skills to do something valuable for the communities we live and work in," said Unzner. "We hope to encourage people to join with us to build many projects like this home for a deserving wounded veteran."


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