APPLETON — A state weatherization program designed to improve the homes of the low-income, ended up destroying an Appleton veteran’s home last year. Now, nearly a year and a half later, that veteran is getting a new house.
Construction is underway on a brand new 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home for Vietnam veteran Jerry Monson.
“It’s awesome,” said Monson, overlooking the construction on his one acre lot on the north side of Appleton.
The view is a vast change from the summer of last year when FOX 11 Investigates toured Monson’s mold-infested mobile home.
The 69-year-old had lived a very happy life for nearly four decades in the mobile home. The Outagamie County Weatherization Program offered to make the home more energy efficient – free of charge – but at some point in the process the roof became structurally damaged. That led to water leaks, a caved-in ceiling and mold.
FOX 11 Investigates’ report on the problem prompted state officials to take notice. Outagamie County’s insurance ultimately paid for a new trailer, but zoning laws in many cases don’t allow for the replacement of mobile homes.
“It’s a quandary of laws,” said John Gillespie, a friend of Monson’s. “The state law says that if Jerry’s mobile home was in a mobile home park even within the city of Appleton, he could just replace it with a duplicate home. But if it’s on private property then he can only repair it, rebuild it, he can’t replace it.”
Our story caught the attention of local lawmakers that toured the mold-infested mobile home. But politics could not offer a quick fix.
Volunteers though came through without a problem.
“They dug the hole for the basement. Then I believed it was coming. It’s actually going to happen,” said Monson.
Gillespie started a fundraising campaign initially to assist in replacing the mobile home. And when that wasn’t an option donors came forward to help build a new house.
“Amazing. Amazing, and of course you know the struggles we went through for a year to get Jerry into a home,” said Gillespie.
There are literally dozens of vounteers, workers, and companies who have contributed to this project. Too many to mention but on Monson’s property there’s a sign illustrating all the companies that have contributed services, supplies and workers. And they continue to add to the list.
Contractors and subcontractors have donated more than $60,000 in supplies and labor. Another $60,000 will be covered by monetary donations. Giordana Home Builders is heading up the project. The company declined comment, saying the focus should remain on Monson, who regularly visits the site and offers free coffee and danish to the workers.
“I wish I was stronger to actually help but I can’t do much,” said Monson.
Since construction on Monson’s home got underway, state lawmakers have been drafting new legislation to allow for a change in zoning laws to protect others who find themselves in Monson’s situation. A hearing is set for next month.
“We’d like to change it so people in the future could be able to stay in place at least for them,” said State Sen. Frank Lasee, R-District 1. “This bill was available and it looked like a good fit so we’re looking to help out people like Jerry.”
While state lawmakers work to change the law to prevent what happened to Monson from happening to others, Monson says he’s just grateful for all the support and volunteers who’ve come together to give him a place to call home.
“You don’t have to tell everybody, but in the evening I cry a little bit about this thing, because it’s unbelievable. It’s a miracle. That’s what it is,” said Monson, touched by all the support.
Since much of Monson’s belonging were also damaged by mold, donations are still be accepted to replace furniture and appliances inside his home.
Plans are to have the house completed by the end of the year, with Monson starting off 2016 back in his own home.