They sell houses, buy houses, build houses—and now, they give away houses. They are the Texas Sentinels, a nonprofit organization that provides debt-free homes for war veterans injured in the line of duty.
Re/Max Texas CEO Richard Phillips launched the organization in 2007. Since then, teams have been popping up across the state. The Woodlands team, formed in May 2011, recently gave away its first home to Chris and Christine Sanford.
"A new house is just one way we can help ease some burdens so that veterans can focus on their recovery," said Casey Kruse, Re/Max of Texas public relations and charity coordinator.
Army Specialist Chris Sanford, 27, was severely wounded by an explosive device while serving in Iraq in 2008. He suffered traumatic brain injury, skull and facial fractures and nerve damage to his back.
"He's still healing and has a long way to go," said Christine Sanford, 25, Chris' wife of one year. "It's such a relief to know we have a home, because now he can feel like he has a place of his own, and not feel like he's bothering anybody. He will be where he can relax and recover."
Chris and Christine had been living with Christine's parents in Kingwood. She commutes to The Woodlands, where she's a science teacher at Knox Junior High School. She and Chris moved to The Woodlands' newest village, Creekside Park, on Jan. 14.
The Woodlands Development Company donated the lot, and the house was built by Ryland Homes and Post Custom Homes.
The 2,300-square-foot, one-story home has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a dining room and a two-car garage.
Re/Max Realtor Carol Knott, who leads The Woodlands Sentinels team along with fellow Realtor Jacci Kilgore, said it took a devoted community to raise the roof, from laying the first brick to hammering the last nail.
The team has organized several successful fundraisers since its inception, including a motorcycle ride, a boot-camp workout, a comedy show and a successful auction that raised more than $30,000 in one night.
"Everyone has pitched in," Knott said. "Many individuals and companies have contributed both large and small amounts, from the young child who won a cake at the Cake Walk and gave it to Chris, to the $10,000 donor. Every penny is greatly appreciated."
The team will continue fundraising as they search for their next Texas Sentinels veteran. Meanwhile, Chris and Christine are extremely thankful they themselves had the opportunity to turn that key and cross the threshold.
"It's an incredible gift," Christine said. "A 'thank you' is just not big enough for how we feel."
The Woodlands Sentinels team:
RE/MAX The Woodlands & Spring
- Jacci Kilgore
- Carol Knott
- Dean Melton
- Gloria and Mike Mechaley
- Mike Seder
- Becky Shannonhouse
- Chad Tschetter
Post Custom Homes
- John Post
The Woodlands Development Company
- Tim Welbes