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Tampa Community Builds A Future For Veteran

Oct 7, 2016

A Tampa nonprofit that has partnered with a national organization to build homes for wounded veterans in Tampa is now going solo.

The Gramatica Family Foundation is building its fourth home for an injured soldier, using all-local donations.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer kicker and Tampa businessman, Martin Gramatica, said there are benefits to going solo.

“They probably build 50 a year, but they’re not all in Tampa,” Gramatica said. “So, this is a chance to be able to build one a year, hopefully more, but they’ll be in Tampa.

He added that people are more willing to donate to a local project where they can see the home and watch its construction progress.

The Gramatica’s fourth veterans' house has a lot of local support, including donated materials and in-kind services. The cost savings are needed because the house is in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood--where homes are valued at around $200,000.

So there’s a lot of local fundraising, too.

The Gramatica Family Foundation sponsors an annual kickball tournament. Team registration just closed, but tickets are still available.The tournament is scheduled Oct. 22, 2016 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ed Radice Sports Complex, 14844 Ed Radice Drive, Tampa.

But that isn’t the only fund-raising event.

“We had a walkathon this past year and raised $50,000 towards the construction of this home,” said real estate agent Scott Daniels with the Coldwell Bankers Cares Foundation.“This is with the love and support and caring of people of Tampa Bay.”

Daniels was among the dozens of adults and children who turned out on a sultry summer morning for the ceremonial “Wall Raising” at the Gramatica Foundation’s fourth veterans’ home.

Workers under the watchful eye of Joe Gibbons with Gulf Bay Builders secured an exterior wall, a structural insulated panel system, to the concrete foundation. The SIPS building system is Gibbons’ specialty.

“It’s so energy efficient, we have to bring fresh air into the house. To give you an idea, this house, the TECO bill will probably be about $60 to $80 a month,” Gibbons said. “Typically, if we don’t have any delays, this size house we could have up in a day – all the outside walls.”

If it stays on schedule, by the holidays, it will be the home of combat veteran Justin Lansford and his wife, Carol. They live in an apartment where the doorways are too narrow and some rooms are carpeted.

“He can’t use his wheelchair, he just sort of hops around right now. So, this will be a real help,” Carol Lansford said. “He’ll be able to use his wheelchair when he takes his leg off at night.”

As an Army sergeant, Justin Lansford served in Iraq and then Afghanistan, where a roadside bomb struck his vehicle. He lost his left leg and suffered multiple internal injuries. Lansford is looking forward to living in a home adapted to his disabilities.

“It’s completely flat, so you can roll in and out with the wheelchair. The bathroom has rails, a roll-in shower,” Justin Lansford said. “I cooked on one leg last night - it’s a workout. Trying to hop to the sink with a hot pan is kind of nerve-racking.”

Martin Gramatica's youth soccer team helped on the project in addition to training and playing soccer.
Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Lansford is amazed at the people of Tampa who contributed to make his life easier, including members of the Tampa Bay United youth soccer team, coached by Gramatica.

The kids range in age from 8 to 11 and were up at 6 a.m. to help unload the building materials for the ceremonial “Wall Raising.”

“I wanted them to realize that if it wasn’t for our veterans, we wouldn’t have the freedom to enjoy soccer games on the weekend,” Gramatica said.  And he said it teaches his young soccer players the value of hard work and to give back to their community.