Members of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) are particularly dedicated to the men and women who serve in uniform—supporting the Folds of Honor Foundation, USA Cares and other military organizations. Brian Hooper, vice president of operations for MSI Mechanical, Salem, N.H., feels this same spirit of obligation toward local veterans. Having developed relationships with Marines by volunteering for their annual Toys for Tots drive and sponsoring Marine Corps Family Day, Hooper realized a greater need was not being met on behalf of injured and disabled soldiers living in New Hampshire. 

“After getting to know the local Marines, I realized there are many in our state who don’t have the basic necessities to live their life comfortably after coming home with disabilities,” Hooper says. “As a mechanical contractor, I wanted to help these men and women who have sacrificed so much by doing more than just writing a check.” 

In 2010, Hooper co-founded Building Dreams for Marines, a nonprofit organization that assists honorably discharged Marines who need life-enhancing modifications to their homes due to a physically limiting condition. To start, Hooper conducted a fundraising campaign to provide no-cost planning, designing and building services to the first recipient, Cpl. Chuck Donnolly. After losing the lower portion of his leg to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, Donnolly needed a new kitchen, stairway and bathroom at the home he shares with his wife Kerry. 

In addition to raising money for the project, Hooper worked closely with the ABC New Hampshire/Vermont Chapter to recruit experienced contractors to assist with the renovation. “ABC is a key component to making these jobs go smoothly because we can use contractors that want to help the service men and women in their communities,” Hooper says. 

The contractors that volunteered for the project gutted the kitchen and installed new appliances and a freestanding island. They reconfigured two bathrooms for easier mobility, and widened doorways and the main stairway to accommodate a wheelchair. In total, the team provided about $55,000 worth of work at a cost of $12,000, which was covered by private and in-kind donations. 

The renovated home was unveiled during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 10. In addition to the staff and volunteers of Building Dreams for Marines, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Gov. John Lynch (D) attended the event. 

“This is an example of America at its best,” Ayotte said. “We saw the example with Chuck and Kerry, and we see the example with this organization.” 

Gov. Lynch called Donnolly a true American hero, adding: “[Donnelly] was in Afghanistan making our lives better; to be able to make his life better is something very special.” 

Donnolly credited the renovation project with restoring the sense of camaraderie he lost after leaving the battlefield. “My sense of community was ripped from me and it was really hard to get it back, until today through Building Dreams for Marines. It really shows the community still cares,” he says. 

Building Dreams for Marines plans to perform its second renovation project in the fall and is organizing a golf tournament fundraiser in October. For more information on making financial donations or volunteering as a skilled contractor, visit www.buildingdreamsformarines.com.