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Habitat for Humanity, General Mills help MO Marine veteran for MLK Day

A crew from TruGuard puts a new roof on the house in Bessemer City that Jesse Gladney, who was awarded the Purple Heart after he was wounded in 2004 while stationed in Iraq, has received from the Purple Heart Homes program. [JOHN CLARK/THE GASTON GAZETTE/TNS]

Dozens of volunteers with General Mills and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day working on building a home for a U.S. Marine veteran and his family.

The federal holiday honoring King, referred to as “a day on, not a day off,” encourages people to volunteer nationwide to improve their communities.

Marine veteran Jesse Arnold and his wife, Breanna, also helped raise walls for their new home on New Hampshire Avenue. Hammers echoed throughout the neighborhood as General Mills employees went to work framing the home.

After breaking ground in November, the Joplin couple said the house is becoming more of a reality day by day.

“It’s a blessing, really,” Jesse Arnold said. “We’re really thankful, and we’re just trying to take it a little bit at a time and soak it all in. It’s one of those things where it doesn’t really hit you all at once. But the further it goes on, the more excited we get. Like today, I feel giddy in a way because I know this is going to be a home that no one has ever lived in before.”

He said he served as a diesel mechanic in the Marines from 2007 to 2011 and said the transition back to civilian life was difficult.

Breanna Arnold said their former residence sustained flood damage and started growing mold. Some of their belongings were ruined. She said that her mother had received assistance from Joplin Habitat following the 2011 tornado, which led them to apply with the organization’s Veteran Build program.

“It became problem after problem to where we couldn’t keep up,” she said. “I had to apply because we were sick, our kids were getting sick.”

This is the third year for Joplin Habitat’s Veteran Build program, part of a national initiative. The four-bedroom, two-bath home has approximately 1,300 square feet and is being built with a $24,000 grant from General Mills. It will be energy efficient to help reduce utility costs.

“I went and applied, and they said they were looking for veteran families,” Breanna Arnold said. “We went from there, and we weren’t expecting this to happen because people said the wait time takes about two years. It did not take us but a couple of months to get approved.”

The project is expected to be completed within the next four to five months.

Leilani McGinnis, of Joplin, was one of 24 volunteers from General Mills.

She said her brother, Justin, is a Marine veteran as well.

“It was really nice to help with this to give another family like his an opportunity to have a nice home,” McGinnis said. “We want them to know that their community is there for them.”

Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity is also allowing the Arnold family to rent one of its unoccupied houses while their home is being constructed. Breanna Arnold said she’s already noticed a difference in her children’s health since they’ve been staying there.

“Our 9-year-old has asthma, and she’s not coughing all night long like she was,” she said. “They’re just happier in general. They have more energy, and they have all of this room to run around. It’s going to be even better when we’re here because the backyard is a park.”

This will be the 167th house built by Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity.

“This would not have been a possibility for us without Joplin Habitat for Humanity,” Breanna Arnold said. “We’re really grateful for everyone who volunteered their time and donated materials.”

‘On this day, we recognize the legacy of a great humanitarian in Martin Luther King Jr., raise walls with a strong, supporting company in General Mills, and do this for a veteran and his young family. It is a joy to see it all come together.’


© 2020 The Joplin Globe