BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — When Tiffany Eckert learned on Mother’s Day 2005 that her husband, Army Sgt. Gary “Andy” Eckert, had been killed in Iraq, she couldn’t imagine life without him.
“I said, ‘I can’t do this,’” said Tiffany, recalling her 23-year-old self. A friend’s mom, however, told her to stand up on behalf of her children, Marlee and Myles, who were 20 months and 1 month old at the time.
Now, 18 years later, Tiffany will soon graduate with a degree in human development and family studies from Bowling Green State University – where Marlee is a freshman. Next fall, Myles will head to BGSU after graduating from Anthony Wayne High School in May.
“All three of us are Folds of Honor recipients. It’s been such a blessing,” Tiffany told a crowd gathered for the October 24 groundbreaking of the “Home of the Brave” – a Waterville Landings home that will raise funds for Folds of Honor.
A national nonprofit organization, Folds of Honor is on a mission to equip and educate the children and sometimes spouses of fallen or disabled veterans, explained Chuck Radabaugh, CPO and general manager for American Interiors – which launched a Folds of Honor chapter in Toledo five years ago.
Nationally, Folds of Honor has provided 44,000 scholarships in $5,000 increments since 2007. For every dollar donated, 91 cents go directly into scholarships. Through a local golf outing and other events, American Interiors and sponsors have raised over $1.2 million, but this is the first time a home will be built and donated to the organization, Radabaugh said.
The idea for the home was initially proposed by Tom Schlachter, president of The Moses-Schlachter Group Inc. and Farnsworth Investors Inc. He pitched the idea to Doug Howard – builder for Farnsworth Village – and his wife Stephanie Kuhlman, vice president of real estate and development at NAI Harmon Group.
“We joined forces to build this charity house,” Kuhlman said, standing in front of a row of shovels on Henline Way in Farnsworth Village.
Every Doug Howard Builders contractor is giving their time, talents and materials to build “The Home of the Brave” – a four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home with a finished basement and three-car garage.
When completed in eight months, Kuhlman and RE/MAX Realtor Julie Fisher will sell the home for an estimated $475,000 and turn over the proceeds to Folds of Honor during American Interiors’ annual fundraiser golf outing at Inverness Country Club.
Carter Lumber has agreed to donate all of the lumber, including framing, doors, windows and cabinets – valued at $100,000 or more.
“Without them, this house could not happen,” Kuhlman said.
Phase 2 includes corporate sponsorships to cover other costs, and The Harmon Family Foundation, which includes NAI Harmon Group, has come in as the first sponsor with $25,000. Other sponsorships will focus on finishing specific areas of the house, like the media room, patio and finished basement.
For Tiffany, who lives in Waterville, the construction of the home off Waterville-Monclova Road will be a welcome site on her daily commute.
“It’s a reminder that people have not forgotten Andy and so many others that have put everything on the line for people like you and me,” she said. “You are making an investment in the future of families like mine. You might not physically see your return, but every night when you crawl in bed under that blanket of freedom that was paid for by my husband and so many others – that’s where you will see your return.”
Members of the 180th Fighter Wing, Waterville police, fire and public works departments, Waterville Rotary, Waterville Area Chamber of Commerce, city council and Anthony Wayne Local Schools joined in on the groundbreaking. Waterville Primary School counselor Jillian Cowell said that student council and the Purple Star Generals group for children of military families, as well as high school students, will work on opportunities to support the Folds of Honor program and the building project.
“This is a great day for the city of Waterville,” Mayor Tim Pedro said.