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Drive starts to build house for veteran

IndianAdjutant General R. MartUmbarger speaks full room veterans supporters Habitfor Humanity Merrillville April 11 2014. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media

Indiana Adjutant General R. Martin Umbarger speaks to a full room of veterans and supporters of Habitat for Humanity in Merrillville on April 11, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 13, 2014 6:10AM



MERRILLVILLE — Former Crown Point Mayor Dan Klein could barely contain his excitement as hundreds of veterans, business owners, politicians and others left Friday’s fundraising breakfast for Northwest Indiana Habititat for Humanity.

“I’m ecstatic,” Klein, the group’s executive director, said. “It’s great to see the respect so many people have for anyone who’s served.”

The breakfast was the official start of Veterans Build, a program by Habitat and the Northwest Indiana Veterans Action Council to raise $90,000 to build a house for a veteran and his or her family.

The council and Habitat are a third of the way to that goal, Klein said, adding that one of those attending Friday donated an entire heating and air conditioning system for the veteran’s house, including labor.

A capacity crowd filled a large ballroom at St. Elijah Serbian Hall in Merrillville — buying T-shirts, donating money and signing the “Wall of Wishes,” a traveling panel that businesses and organizations can use to help raise money.

Dozens of men and women gathered around the room wearing vests, caps and T-shirts indicating their years and branches of service, while politicians and elected officials shook hands and worked the room

“This was just the beginning,” Michael Sparber, chairman of the veterans council, said of Friday’s meeting.

Introduced by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, Major Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, head of the Indiana National Guard, spoke of the Guard’s contributions to the state and country. Indiana ranks 14th in population among the 50 states, but its roughly 15,800 members in the state Guard places it fourth in the nation in total Guardsmen, Umbarger said.

“Indiana has always sent a disproportionate amount of soldiers, sailors and airmen to serve our country,” he said, adding that about 22,000 Indiana Guardsmen have been deployed around the world since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.



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