Operation Finally Home provides mortgage-free homes to veterans

Jessica and Tyson Cole are handed the keys to their new Menomonee Falls home from David Belman, president of Waukesha-based Belman Homes.
Jessica and Tyson Cole are handed the keys to their new Menomonee Falls home from David Belman, president of Waukesha-based Belman Homes.

Operation Finally Home has now built and given its fifth house in southeastern Wisconsin to a veteran and their family.

Its organizers plan to continue delivering a new home in the area each year, even as the cost of construction continues its upward trend.

The Texas-based nonprofit organization provides custom-built, mortgage-free homes to veterans and their families. David Belman, president of Waukesha-based home builder Belman Homes, brought the idea to Wisconsin after he learned about it while attending a builder’s show in Las Vegas.

“I said, ‘Wow, I’d love to be able to do this in Wisconsin,’” he said.

A year later, he was doing it.

Belman said Operation Finally Home differs from other volunteer-based organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, in that the houses are built entirely by professional contractors. The companies donate their time, materials and labor, while organizers seek out donations and put on fundraising events. In some instances, people have even donated the land where the houses were built.

The houses are customized to cater to any particular needs of the veteran and family. For instance, Belman said he’s made homes that are wheelchair-accessible or that contain special therapy rooms.

So far, the group has built two homes in Jackson, one in the city of Waukesha, one in the town of Waukesha and one in Menomonee Falls. The next home will also be built in Menomonee Falls.

“My goal is to do one every year now going forward,” Belman said.

The most recent home, which was turned over to the Cole family this summer, had contributions in one form or another from 65 different companies. Belman added that a task force of 12 to 14 people help plan and work at the fundraising events.

In fact, organizers held for the first time a concert to help raise money. “Operation Rock the House” took place in February at Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee, and featured a performance from Wisconsin singer Chris Kroeze. Kroeze was a contestant on the televised talent show “The Voice,” and is a strong supporter of the military and veterans, said Belman.

Operation Finally Home in Wisconsin has added more fundraising events in recent years, due in large part to the increasing costs associated with building a home. Belman said the first home built was valued at $350,000, and the group spent about $35,000 to build it. The rest was covered through donated material and labor. The most recent home, meanwhile, was $550,000 in value, and the group spent about $250,000 on it.

“(The Operation Finally Home events) have all been growing every year, which has been great. It’s been a formula that’s worked, so we’ve been able to keep the momentum going,” Belman said. “We say this is really a community project and we mean that.”

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.