Kirstie Comes Home

Building Homes for Heroes, in partnership with Pella, constructs a mortgage-free home for Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.

“I've never really had a home of my own since I became a Marine. I've lived out of packs and suitcases. But now I have my own home – a base where I can continue to heal and support my fellow wounded soldiers," said U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Kirstie Ennis as she received the keys to her first permanent home.

Sgt. Ennis suffered near-fatal injuries in Afganistan in 2012, resulting in the amputation of one leg. However, she would not be defined by her injuries. After Ennis underwent dozens of surgeries and months of learning to walk again, a group called Disabled Sports USA taught her how to snowboard to aid her physical and emotional recovery. Soon, Ennis began training to join the 2018 U.S. Paralympic team – she’s ranked fifth in the world and was featured on the cover of ESPN’s body issue.

In order to compete for the U.S. paralympic team, Ennis left her family in Pensacola, Florida, to train full-time in Aspen, Colorado. There, she connected with Building Homes for Heroes (BHH), an organization that has gifted 127 mortgage-free homes to injured veterans since 2001, and they were eager to support her on this journey.

Kim Vesey, a representative from BHH, explained that veterans fill out an application and are selected based upon the severity of their injuries. Each home takes about 6-12 months to complete. When designing the home, BHH likes to get the recipient involved as much as possible.

"We went over the architectural design to make sure everything was set up to accommodate her specific needs," she said. "Kirstie reviewed our plans and let us know how many rooms she wanted and what styles she liked. We based the design on her feedback – but we still wanted it to be a surprise."

BHH selects a community partner and a general contractor to oversee the build. John Young from Ironbridge Community and contractor Bob Gibson of RM Construction were immediately drawn to Ennis’s project.

Young said, “The community really got behind the effort, and you could feel the energy that was produced. Once we met Kirstie and heard her story, we were even more excited to have such an incredible inspiration become part of our community.”

Rustic fiberglass entry door set into a stone façade next to colorful flowers

Pella® Fiberglass Entry Door

Gibson was tasked with finding material suppliers and subcontractors to complete Ennis’s home. When it came to window suppliers, there was no question. Gibson said, “It goes without saying that Pella’s quality is top-notch, which is one of the reasons [we chose to partner with them]. The others are the superior service and the look of the Pella products.”

Gibson and Alan Wolf, general manager of Pella Colorado, worked together to choose the best Pella® products for Kirstie’s needs and the home. Wolf said, “We agreed on the attributes, the color, the glazing, the handles and sizes. They really like the Pella Impervia product. If they had their way, they would use it on everything because it’s just a solid window.”

Modern blue and gray living room flooded with natural light.

Pella® Impervia® Fiberglass Double-Hung Windows and Sliding Patio Door

There were also environmental considerations, because Ennis’s home was built to be ENERGY STAR® certified. Wolf explained, “There’s such a difference between a vinyl window and an Impervia window. In [Ennis’s] neighborhood, where houses are close together, we did a foam-filled fiberglass window, both for energy efficiency and noise reduction.”

On September 16, Ennis saw her home for the first time. She said, “Receiving a home from BHH opens the door to my future. It will provide me the platform to be able to continue serving people, the foundation to have a family and the opportunity to grow past my injuries.”