Welcome home: Work begins on veterans community in Crane Hill

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Left to right are contractor Junior Rhodes, Tim Walker, Irv Jones and consultant David Hooper. (Courtesy of Irv Jones)

CRANE HILL, Ala. – Work has begun at the future home of Connie’s Cottages in Crane Hill, an affordable housing community being developed for veterans. The community, along County Road 949, was the idea of Irv Jones and a gift to his wife, Connie, a four-time breast cancer survivor. Jones, who lives in San Francisco, has teamed with Walker Brothers in Baileyton to build the 10-11 cottage development.

Jones was in town Tuesday to visit with the contractors, as well as with two local veterans whom he sponsored to receive the new stellate ganglion block (SGB) shot for PTSD. He also sat down with The Tribune to give an update on the progress made at Connie’s Cottages.

“It was hard to find somebody who was going to finance the construction,” said Jones. “We met with both the Walker brothers yesterday, and they are just super. Their comment to me was, ‘Irv, what do you need from us to make you feel comfortable with us?’ Al Walker said that he was down with the project and wanted to be part of it.” They are just super people. Their whole staff is.”

Jones met with Walker Brothers Monday to determine the layout of the cottages and landscape. He described the project to be at the “embryonic” stage, but electric and water is already in at the site, and he said they are waiting on permits from the health department for septic. Jones said he expects the first foundation to be built after the permit process is complete.

LaShay Corbin with Walker Brothers said, “The initial goal is possibly 10 (cottages), and that’s going to depend on the lay of the land and placing homes. That’s going to factor in. Yesterday we had some guys go out and they marked off at least (what) they knew (sic) would look like a good size.”

Corbin estimated it will take six months to complete the homes, but with so many outside factors to contend with, she emphasized that six months is a rough estimate.

As for the cottages, Jones said, “We are looking at roughly at 750- to 850-square-feet, under roof, and perhaps building out to one or two bedrooms. We want to be able to facilitate a family with one or two kids and provide the adequate square footage to facilitate that. That is still in the development stage, philosophically speaking.”

Being involved in a project with the potential for a huge positive impact on veterans, especially those struggling with PTSD, is important not only to Jones, but also to Walker Brothers.

Said Corbin, “We have been in this community for many years and for us to be able to help out and give back and help someone achieve a dream like this is very beneficial. We can’t think of a better cause than helping our vets.”

Walker Brothers has been doing business in Cullman and around the Southeast for more than 50 years, including the Smith Lake area.

Corbin added, “We are at Smith Lake a lot. Any of the issues of building in that area, we have dealt with before.”

Jones also consulted with local veteran Col. Ken Brown when developing his plan.

Brown said of the project, “PTSD is a big deal. The source of the people coming to live in these tiny homes, when we get them done, is going to be the VA. Irv’s concept and his wife Connie’s concept from the very beginning (is) to take people who are battle-scarred who are trying to come down off the ceiling and decompress and all that sort of thing and get them into a pastoral, quiet, serene setting where they can calm down and where they can get a little peace and readjust back into the community.”

He continued, “Jeremy Hogan with Saving Forgotten Warriors, they are working on the same type of project, temporary veteran housing. This is going to be permanent veteran’s housing. You’ve also got the VFW and Saving Forgotten Warriors working together to send people to Annapolis to get the SGB shot for PTSD. Hopefully, the people who will be moving into these houses will be set up for an SGB shot to calm them down even more. It’s a nice synergy where we got veterans organizations in the county supporting what Irv is doing and supporting what Jeremy is doing. Jeremy and Irv will be supporting each other creating a nice synergy going where we can help veterans not only from our county but elsewhere in the State of Alabama to come up here and get some relief. That’s what we are all working for.”

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com