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Turning a House into a Home

White House Fellow Rod Lewis describes how volunteers from Sears, Rebuild Together and the local community brought the vision of Joining Forces to life by renovating Sergeant Johnny Agbi's house.

I recently had the privilege to witness the power of Joining Forces, the initiative First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched to raise awareness and increase support for military members and their families.  On October 18th with the help of Sears and Rebuilding Together, the First Lady and Dr. Biden joined the local Washington DC community to give back to Sergeant Johnny Agbi, and I know that the spirit of service I saw is exactly what they had in mind when created they Joining Forces.  

Johnny served proudly in the US Army, 10th Mountain Division and deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan as a medic.  During his tour in Afghanistan he was severely injured in combat, and is now confined to a wheelchair most of the time.  As much as he wanted to continue serving our nation he was medically retired from the Army.

Upon his arrival back home, Johnny remained upbeat about his future and was able to purchase a small home near his physical therapy treatment center.  While Johnny is making great progress with his physical therapy; his newly purchased house could not accommodate his physical limitations.  Joining Forces, Sears Holding Company and Rebuilding Together, all stepped up to help Johnny, just as Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden envisioned.  They all lent a hand to help renovate Johnny's home.

This project galvanized volunteers from Sears, Rebuild Together and the local community and brought the vision of Joining Forces to life.
Johnny now has a home he can be proud of, and as the First Lady said, "he can answer a front door that is no longer an obstacle … the stairway that is no longer an adversary … the building that’s no longer just a house, but a home."

To date, Sears has provided more than $15 million to their Heroes at Home program and have worked on numerous projects with Rebuild Together.   It is inspiring to see private industry combing their efforts with non-profits to support a military veteran – what a team they make.  I know Johnny is extremely happy with his renovated home with lower counters, widened doors, new appliances and a bathroom that can accommodate his wheelchair.  I know because Johnny told me, and more importantly I saw his face when his home was dedicated.  Johnny was the 1,000th person to receive support from this wonderful Joining Forces collaboration.  To Johnny: “thank you” for your service!