In The News

Build and Learn completes project for Thompson Station veteran

Mike Christen | The Daily Herald | Original Article

A Maury County nonprofit organization, dedicated to helping those in need of employment and others in need of repairs to their home, is celebrating the completion of another successful project.

This time, Build and Learn assisted Thompson’s Station resident Dale Grissom, a 66-year-old veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in the Vietnam War.

Until recently, Grissom, who is disabled and relies on oxygen tanks, was unable to independently leave his home in his wheelchair.

The primary obstacle for the former naval leader and machinist was a series of deteriorating steps at his front door.

However, after an inquiry from Daniel Wren of the Maury County Veterans Services Office, the local non-profit Build and Learn constructed a new ramp for Grissom allowing him comfortably leave his home.

In recent weeks, Build and Learn participants constructed a ramp at the home’s entrance, bringing a new level independence to Grissom and his wife Anita.

“Even to take a shower is a struggle,” Anita Grissom said. “Now, we have peace of mind, security and mobility. We have hope. I want people to reach out this holiday season and be thankful. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves and he helps them. There is help, you just need to know where to get it.”

Since 2008, Build and Learn Inc., has offered training programs in home building and renovation for citizens struggling to find work and offers the students’ services to veterans and disadvantaged citizens in need.

The courses offered by Build and Learn range from general maintenance to heavy equipment operations. It provides a training opportunity for those who may have previously dropped out of school or struggle to find employment due to a past criminal record.

A build and learn course typically lasts about 12 weeks and with classes ranging in size from four to eight students.

Three program participants learned skills in carpentry and excavation when building the ramp at the Grissom home under the leadership of Build and Learn instructor Kenneth Duke.

Quinton Jones, the program’s director, is a former project developer for general contractor Hood Company, LLC and spent much of his time building low income housing units in Nashville.

“This project represents one of many requests from the late James Paterson of Maury County Veterans Services,” Jones told The Daily Herald.

Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association donated $1,700 and the Spring Hill Home Depot donated the materials needed for Build and Learn to construct the ramp.

Heavy equipment needed for the project was donated by Columbia’s Sun Belt Rentals.

“This was a real success despite being a difficult project due to the weather,” Jones said. “We saw a lot of rain and it required a lot of determination. There was a lot of mud. It was hard to maneuver.”

A longtime educator, Jones previously held a career as a middle school teacher and librarian. He is also a former director of the Middle Tennessee Diversity Contractors Association. The Nashville-based organization consists of 150 members.

“The organization is picking up momentum and making contributions to the community,” Jones said. “Columbia is becoming a place where veterans can come and get help. Columbia has become known for helping veterans from other communities.”

Build and Learn has carried out at least nine similar projects this year., two of which were funded with a $10,000 grant from Lee Company.

“If it wasn’t for Quinton, we wouldn’t know what to do,” Anita Grissom told The Daily Herald. “He puts the veterans first. People like Gabriel and Quinton, they are going to get their reward one day. This was my blessing. People need to know there there is help out there. Through Gabriel and Quinton, there is hope.”

In 2017, the Build and Learn team was dispatched to West Burt Drive in Columbia, where they assisted in painting the ceiling of 22-year veteran David David.

Due to one perforated disk and another bulged disk in his back, the former Air Force jet engine mechanic is unable to repaint the ceilings in his home. Jones and his fellow instructors were there to brush the toughest and highest corners of the house with precision.

A year later, Build and Learn constructed a ramp for Ret. Command Sgt Major William ‘Skip’ Bottoms, a wheelchair-bound 40-year veteran of the National guard who was diagnosed with ALS two years earlier.

“Veterans get into bad situations and they need help,” Bottoms told The Daily Herald in September 2018. “They need someone who can understand their plight. That is really important and that is probably what is missing when you hear criticism of the VA. What it amounts to, is that somebody probably got lost in a crowd somewhere. The veterans need our help and they deserve our help.”

Southern Middle Tennessee is home to about 7,000 veterans and about 300 are regularly served by the Maury County Veterans Services.

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