By JESSICA KERMAN
ANDERSON — When Greg Vannatta comes home from Iraq, he won’t recognize his house.
Vannatta, now on his second tour in Iraq, and his wife, Tobie, bought a two-story fixer-upper on the west side of Anderson in November, just months before Greg was called back for duty.
“He started things we had to do to live here before he left,” Tobie said, adding that Greg intended to complete projects when he returned.
After Skip Ockomon, Bill Arnold and several others are done with it, Vannatta won’t have any work to do.
“Greg, when he comes home, he’ll be able to spend time with us,” Tobie said referring to herself and her three sons.
Greg Vannatta is Ockomon’s captain at the Anderson Fire Department, so when Ockomon realized the house needed some renovations, he decided to help Tobie with a couple of projects. However, after some consideration, Ockomon decided to take it further.
What started as a few small projects became a huge undertaking, Ockomon explained.
“It got so big that we had to get help,” he said.
Ockomon is on the leadership board at Stepping Stones for Veterans, which is where he recruited Arnold, a case manager at the facility. Almost 20 men from the facility have volunteered to help so far.
“When the men take their uniforms off, they’re not done serving this country,” he said.
Work will include some construction work on the home and garage and some landscaping and excavating projects. To pay for all of the projects, volunteers have canvassed businesses, nonprofits and individuals to donate money, materials, time and labor to the project.
“This is good for the whole community,” Ockomon said. “It’s a feel-good for everybody and people are hungry for that. There’s all kinds of people coming out of the woodwork for this.”
Some projects have already started, but most will be encompassed into the weekend of June 6, 7 and 8.
The idea is based on ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover” where the show picks a house and sends the family away to renovate the home, even to the extent where a building team marches down the street to the house.
Ockomon said he invited his brother Mayor Kris Ockomon and his staff to march to the house.
Skip Ockomon said someone from the group had contacted the television show about their efforts.
Several businesses have already donated to the cause.
“I’m very proud of my husband. He’s not a selfish person,” Tobie said as her eyes started tearing up. “This hit me like a tons of bricks. It’s wonderful, but I don’t feel like we deserve it, but everybody around me says we do. I feel very blessed.”
All of this has been secret to Greg until now.
“Greg, if you’re reading this — ‘Surprise!’” Ockomon added.
Interested in volunteering or donating?
Noon to 1 p.m.
Auditorium, City Building, 120 E. Eighth St., Anderson
5 to 8 p.m.
Madison Park Church of God, Columbus Avenue and 67th Street, Anderson
Businesses that have donated to the cause:
• Allan’s Jewelry and Loan
• Anderson Rent All
• Belvedere Hair Styling
• Bikes to Boards
• Blue Grass Farms
• Broadway Press
• Burkhart Billboards
• Carters Lumber
• Clip Zone
• Community Hospital
• Cutting Lumber
• Community Hospital
• Cutting Edge Landscaping
• Dietzen Heating and Air
• Don Miller Tire
• Drinkuts Landscaping
• Fitzgerald’s Construction
• Gray’s Remodeling and Roofing
• Hallmark at Mounds Mall
• Indiana Firefighters Association
• Interior Treasures in Anderson
• Jon Mollett Garage
• Key Bank
• Kirby Risk
• Madison County Federal Credit Union
• Maple Hill Gardners
• McComb Window and Door Co.
• Norfleet Auto, Middletown
• Pet Solutions
• Phillippe Water/ Zalakar Car Wash
• The Salon Professional Academy
• Steve Richardson
• Shaggy Chic
• Spring Valley Kennels
• Spring Play
• Tim's Tire and Auto-Chesterfield
• Tractor Supply
• W.R. Dunkin
• Watson’s Excavating
• West Electric
• White River Club
By JESSICA KERMAN