Ask Demond Taylor how he’s doing and you’ll get a cheery response: “The sun is shining and I’m employed,” he says, “so I’m doing great.”
With his positive attitude, it’s no wonder Demond’s life is coming together in a big way. His latest blessing: a newly rehabbed home for the Iraq veteran (82nd Airborne, 2001-2005), his wife Amber, his service dog Madison, and the houseful of kids they plan to adopt.
Demond’s good fortune didn’t unfold by accident. His new home, at 1171 Avondale Road in South Euclid, evolved from a collaboration between the Cuyahoga Land Bank, the City of South Euclid, Wags 4 Warriors and, importantly, Purple Heart Homes, a national organization we profiled last spring that helps provide quality, affordable housing for disabled veterans.
The house will not transfer to the Taylor family free of charge; they will purchase it at a discounted price. Up to $70,000 in supplies and services will be donated by contractors and utilities, including a just-announced subscription to WOW cable and internet service.
“This is what I love about the Land Bank,” Demond says. “They bring organizations together to make positive things happen.”
“The house needs plenty of work,” says Michael Love of the City of South Euclid. “Some demo work is being done by volunteers…they’re taking out old drywall, plaster and fake ceilings. The foundation will be waterproofed, a new kitchen will be added, a bedroom will be repositioned and floors will be refinished. It’s a big job.”
Demond was referred to Purple Heart Homes by Wags 4 Warriors, a group that provides service dogs for veterans. They were able to train Demond’s own dog, a bulldog/beagle mix, to assist his master with situational awareness, a symptom of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). “Now I don’t get startled the way I used to,” Demond says.
South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo is delighted that the Taylors will soon relocate to her city. “What better neighbor to have, than a veteran?” she says. “We’re giving back to our veterans and recommitting to our established neighborhoods. We don’t want to lose our greatest asset-and in our community that asset is the people who live here. With this program, everybody wins.”
For Demond, the Purple Heart Home is, “quite the blessing. It puts me about five steps ahead of where I was a year ago, gives me an opportunity to be a person again. I felt like I was just going through the motions last year-I didn’t have any sense of permanence. This is something stable in my life-a place where I’m safe and comfortable and can be my best self.”Demond is no stranger to caring for a home. “We had our chores as kids,” he remembers. “I had the type of parents who made us cut our lawn, then cut the neighbors’ lawns when we were finished.” He’s refreshing his gardening skills by working in South Euclid’s community gardens and “can’t wait” to grow his own vegetables at home.
The Taylors expect to move into their Purple Heart Home in April, when work on the house is completed-and Mayor Welo encourages other cities to work with the Land Bank and Purple Heart Homes to provide good housing for veterans, too. “This is an investment,” she says. “How can we have all these vacant homes, yet have veterans who need housing? The Land Bank is changing neighborhoods, and when they work with groups like Purple Heart Homes, you’ll always see great outcomes. It’s heartwarming.”