By Michelle Colesanti


Building Homes for Heroes, in conjunction with William Ryan Homes, held a groundbreaking ceremony in early March in The Enclave at South Fork. The ceremony honored U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Scott Nichols, who joined the Marines in 1994, and was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Award in 2006, Joint Service Achievement Award in 2006, Marine Corps Good Conduct Award  in 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, and the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Award in 2009. The Southeast Regional Representative of Building Homes for Heroes, Jim Rogers officiated.

William Ryan Homes will build the new home in Riverview for Sergeant Nichols and his family. The house will be ready in four to six months and the family will then be able to move in mortgage free.

In November of 2010, SSgt Nicholas was paralyzed from the shoulders down in a motorcycle accident in Jacksonville, N.C. His wife Yolanda and children, Katessa, Alexus, and Scott, Jr. have been at his side while he has gone through rehabilitation and recovery.  SSgt Nicholas is currently receiving therapy at the Tampa Veterans Administration hospital.

Division President for William Ryan Homes Jeff Thorson said, “William Ryan Homes is excited and honored to be involved. We’ll take this raw dirt and create a new lifestyle for them (Nichols’ Family).”

Building Homes for Heroes gave out 38 homes in Florida alone this year. Last year it received a $2 million grant from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), and this year it hopes to support Veterans with another 38 homes. Last year 94.9 cents of every dollar received went back out the door directly for veterans.

Many corporate supporters, such as Advanced Auto Parts, Home Depot, and JPMorgan Chase help financially or in the case of Chase, supply foreclosed homes that can be renovated to incorporate the needs of the selected veteran.

A wounded veteran brings home changes to family routine, and a home in a nice community provides stability for the entire family.

Ssgt Nichols said, “This does touch the bottom of my heart and my family appreciates everything you’ve done for us.”

His wife Yolanda thanked everyone and said that she looks forward to being part of the community.

Building Homes for Heroes is a national non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2006 that is committed to rebuilding lives and supporting the brave men and women who were injured while serving the country during the time of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. The organization builds or modifies homes, and gifts them, mortgage-free, to veterans and their families.

On Saturday, April 25 a home will be given to another injured veteran in Covington Park.

Most of the money raised comes through personal and corporate fundraising. Individuals who are interested in helping out or would like more information, visit


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Michelle Colesanti
Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.