A local U.S. Navy veteran and his family received the gift of a lifetime on Nov. 15. Retired U.S. Navy Petty Officer Second Class Jerry Whatts, Jr., his wife Jeaniel, a Navy reservist and their four children saw for the first time their brand-new, mortgage-free home in Riverview, Florida. The home was built and donated by PulteGroup through the company’s Built to Honor program in partnership with nonprofit Operation Homefront.
The family was first surprised with the announcement in May and took part in the official groundbreaking in July. Since then, PulteGroup’s West Florida division, along with their trade partners and suppliers have been hard at work constructing the brand-new, four bedroom home to welcome the Whatts family home for the holidays.
“This is the best way for us to say thank you to someone for their service and dedication to protecting the freedoms we hold so dear,” said Sean Strickler, Division President for PulteGroup’s West Florida operations. “We have had the wonderful opportunity to meet and spend time with Jerry and Jeaniel and their family, and there could not another family more deserving of this new home. I hope they build lasting memories here and enjoy their very first Thanksgiving in their new home.”
Both Jerry and Jeaniel Whatts have served on multiple deployments, including to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. It was a deployment that brought the two together when both were at sea aboard the USS Nimitz. They have dreamed of owning a single-family home for a long time, but after Mr. Whatts’ long recovery post-service, the family faced a mountain of financial challenges and could not do so on their own.
The Whatts family was accepted into Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront (HOTH) program, which provides veterans and their families the opportunity to move into a home and work directly with housing caseworkers and financial counselors to prepare for home ownership. The family will receive the deed to the home upon successful graduation from the program, within one to two years.
The four-bedroom home is located in Pulte’s Ventana community in Riverview.
“Because of partners like PulteGroup, we are able to provide life-changing impact for military families – freeing them from the stress that comes with a mortgage payment and opening many doors of opportunity for their future,” said Gracie Broll, Vice President of Transitional and Permanent Housing at Operation Homefront. “We are extremely grateful, for the second year, to be a part of the Built to Honor program that supports our veterans and military families and helps us accomplish our mission of building strong, stable, and secure military families so that they can thrive in the communities they have worked so hard to protect.”
PulteGroup’s Built to Honor program was launched in 2013 to recognize and thank returning military personnel who have been injured during their term of service by providing mortgage-free homes to veterans and their families. Built to Honor works in partnership with nonprofit organizations to identify veteran candidates.
Since 2013, the Built to Honor program has delivered homes to over 50 veterans and their families across the country as they transition out of the military and into a new phase of their lives. This is the 3rd home PulteGroup has delivered in the Tampa Bay area since 2015. As a top homebuilder, providing a home is the best way for PulteGroup to give back to the nation’s service members.
Operation Homefront created the Homes on the Homefront program with the assistance of corporate partners to provide our nation’s veterans and military families with the foundation for long-term stability and resiliency. More than 650 military families nationwide have entered into the HOTH program, and since 2012 over 550 of these families have graduated from the program and have been deeded their home, mortgage-free, providing them with over $80 million in home equity.
Anyone looking for more information about the Homes on the Homefront program, or to apply, can go to www.operationhomefront.org.