Helping a family rebuild in Georgia

By Krista Van Tassel
January 24th, 2012

On September 1, 2005, Sgt. Charles “Buddy” Mays suffered a life-altering event. While returning from a mission in Mahmuiyah, Iraq, Buddy’s vehicle detonated an IED, seriously injuring him, two other members of his unit, and killing two others. Buddy suffered severe spinal cord injuries that even nine back surgeries could not fully repair.

Veteran Buddy Mays gets ready to assist with the lift installation on his deck. (Click for larger image in a new window)Since returning from war, Buddy has been able to gain full upper body mobility, but remains paralyzed from the waist down. The young soldier doesn’t allow his injury to deter him from living life to the fullest: He serves as a Cub Scout leader, plays wheel chair basketball and event snow skies.

However, he was having trouble getting around in his Meansville, Ga. home, which lacked a backyard exit for his wheelchair and a handicap accessible bathroom. Both issues presented daily challenges for Buddy and his family, his wife Summer and their two young daughters.

What’s more, their home was in need of serious energy efficiency repairs. As a family of four on a fixed income, the Mays family was facing electricity costs of more than $700 a month, causing a severe strain on the family budget. Buddy requested help from Purple Heart Homes, a nonprofit organization founded by two Iraq combat wounded Veterans Dale Beatty and John Gallina. Purple Heart Homes is dedicated to providing housing solutions for disabled veterans and their families.

Earlier this year, Purple Heart Homes approached Wells Fargo with an opportunity to help the Mays family. We were thrilled to support such an amazing organization and help an incredible family like the Mays rebuild their life in Georgia.

Through a collaboration that included our local Wells Fargo community bank, the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and Environmental Affairs, our company provided both a $37,000 grant and more than 20 volunteers help make the Mays’ home more accessible and enjoyable. In addition to the accessibility repairs, the home also received an energy efficiency upgrade that will allow his family to save up to $350/month in energy bills.

Wells Fargo Volunteer superstar Audrey Price tapes the office for a fresh coat of low VOC paint. (Click for larger image in a new window)“Our mission is to provide personalized housing solutions to Service Connected Disabled Veterans,” said John Gallina, co-founder of Purple Heart Homes. “Working with Wells Fargo provided us with a perfect solution to help Buddy Mays, and we were thrilled to be able to not only make Buddy’s home safer and more accessible, but also more comfortable and affordable for his family.”

So, on November 18-19, 2011 (on the heels of Veteran’s Day), a very motivated Wells Fargo team got to work alongside several volunteers from Purple Heart Homes and many members of the Mays family.

Over the course of two very full days, the team installed an elevator lift for the backyard deck and created a new accessible bathroom. We also helped insulate the attic, install a new heating and cooling system that is both energy efficiency and accessible to Buddy should he want to make repairs for his family. And to assist with summer’s to do list, we helped paint the home with colorful, low VOC paint and added eco-friendly garden work to the front and side yards.

It was the least we could do to thank a service member and his family for their wartime sacrifice!

Today, the Mays family lives in a very different home—one both wheelchair accessible and easier to maintain, thanks to the many repairs that made their family safer and more comfortable with their home and their budget.

Macon, Ga.-based Business Banker Scott Sapp prepares the decking for the elevator lift. (Click for larger image in a new window)Perhaps Buddy said it best, “[This work has] simplified everyday life and everything in my house in a way that most people will never understand. The volunteers overwhelm me the most. That all of these people who don’t know me would do this … well, there’s really not much I can say but ‘Thanks.'”

Krista Van Tassel

Krista Van Tassel

As Community and Team Member Engagement manager for Wells Fargo’s Environmental Affairs Team, Krista supports the company’s 70+ Green Teams, recognizing and promoting environmental innovator best practices, and engaging and educating team members about their role in helping the company’s sustainability efforts. She also manages Wells Fargo’s Environmental Solutions for Communities’ $3 million annual nonprofit grant program focused on helping make long-term sustainable economic investments in local communities where its customers and 264,000 team members work and live. Prior to joining Wells Fargo in 2009, Krista worked in a variety of sustainability and marketing positions in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors. Krista earned her MBA in International Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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