Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Nathan Shumaker and his family will celebrate a big milestone this weekend that’s been three years in the making.
On Saturday, the Shumakers will receive the key to their new home in Hillsboro – a house the nonprofit organization Homes For Our Troops custom built to meet the wounded veteran’s needs.
It will be the 300th home the organization has built and donated to a wounded veteran.
“We are very excited,” said Nathan, 33, who will move into the home with his wife, Missy, 30, and their children – Ely, 7, and Kaylee, 3. “We were accepted in the program in late June 2017. I’m excited to start the next chapter of our lives there.”
Nathan is a 2006 Windsor High School graduate, and Missy is a 2008 Hillsboro High School graduate.
Nathan lost a leg and suffered other wounds in 2010 in a mortar attack while serving in Afghanistan.
He is medically retired from the military, and in May 2018, he completed a master’s degree in social work at St. Louis University. He works as a case manager at Comtrea, which provides mental health and health care services throughout the county.
Homes For Our Troops builds and donates specially adapted, custom homes nationwide for post- 9/11 veterans, most of whom have sustained injuries like amputations, paralysis and/or severe traumatic brain injury. The group began building and donating homes for veterans in 2004.
“We are tremendously proud and completely overjoyed at placing 300 severely injured post-9/11 veterans and their families into their forever home,” HFOT president and CEO Tom Landwermeyer said.
The Shumakers will move into their new, one-story Hillsboro home after living in a two-story home in Herculaneum since 2011, Nathan said.
He said the family has eagerly watched the home take shape ever since the site was picked and construction started.
“We’ve been looking at it ever since Homes For Our Troops bought the land,” Nathan said. “We have gone there at least once a week, and we have either walked in the woods or where our house would be to scope out the area. Ever since they broke ground, we have been very excited about what the house will look like, what the first thing we will do when we get in the house will be. It is very exciting.”
Advantages of new home
The Shumakers’ home will feature more than 40 major special adaptations, like widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower and kitchen amenities that include pull-down shelving and lowered countertops, according to the HFOT.
Nathan said one of the features he is most excited about is the roll-in shower.
“I have seen guys just roll in there with their wheelchair, hop onto the bench and shower like normal. I will no longer have a lip to jump over like I do at my current house.”
Nathan also said living in a one-story home will make it easier for him to start his day and get around his house with no obstacles.
“When I get up in the morning (in the new house), I can just get in my wheelchair and go,” he said. “I won’t have to worry about putting on my leg. I won’t have to worry about getting my crutches and going down steps. I can just hop in the wheelchair and go about my day. That will be very nice.”
Nathan said Wayfair, an online furniture and home goods store, has furnished the home for the family. And he said his children are looking forward to settling into rooms that have been decorated specifically for them.
“My son is excited to have a room that he loves,” Nathan said. “There will be dinosaurs and planets because he is very into dinosaurs right now. He also loves the color blue.
“Kaylee is excited. They decorated her room with mermaids and unicorns. It has anything that is pink or white. She loves it.”
Nathan said another benefit is that Missy no longer will need to worry about him maneuvering around their home.
“Everything is wide enough that I can fit my wheelchair through with ease, and I can get around the entire house with no problems.”
Two events are planned this weekend to celebrate the completion and donation of the home to the Shumakers.
On Friday, a volunteer day will be held, and some final landscaping outside the house will be completed.
On Saturday, a key ceremony will be held with HFOT handing off keys to the family.
Typically, HFOT’s volunteer days and key ceremonies are open to the public. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance is limited to 50 at each of this weekend’s events for the Shumakers, and capacity has been reached for both days, the organization reported.
“The only somewhat disappointing aspect (surrounding this weekend’s celebration) is that our partners, donors and community members won’t be able to participate in the usual numbers,” Landwermeyer said.
He said volunteer days and key ceremonies typically attract about 150 participants.
“But, in the end, it’s not about HFOT or the event itself. We’re solely focused on getting these homes completed so our veterans and their families can get on with rebuilding their lives,” Landwermeyer said.
Nathan said he, too, wishes more people could take part in the volunteer day and key ceremony, but he is happy to be part of a milestone for HFOT.
“I’m just glad that we are able to have this ceremony for this momentous occasion,” Nathan said. “I’m glad we were accepted into the organization and honored to be the 300th house.”
More to come
The Hillsboro home is the fourth house the organization has donated to a wounded veteran in Missouri, said Teresa Verity, HFOT marketing associate.
HFOT currently is working to complete 70 more homes throughout the country, including one in Chesterfield, Verity said.
“We see our mission as the moral obligation of the citizens of the United States to repay a small part of a debt that can never be fully repaid,” Landwermeyer said.
“HFOT is just the vehicle the American public can use to provide (veterans) a home that is completely safe, fully accessible, restores freedom and independence to the veteran and reduces the burden and stress of the spouse/caregiver and entire family. I personally feel we could never do enough for these young men and women and their families.”