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Habitat digs in for veterans build project

POSTED: April 28, 2014 8:07 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

Army veteran Cristal Boyles, front right, and her husband Larry, front left, join Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County board members and volunteers for a groundbreaking for the first house the chapter will build for a military veteran.

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Cristal Boyles has been looking forward for a while to becoming a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, and her wait should be over soon.

Habitat of Effingham selected Boyles about four years ago as the first recipient in its new program to build homes for military veterans.

However, construction of the house has been delayed for a combination of reasons, including a changeover in Habitat of Effingham’s board of directors and a decline in donations to the organization during the economic downturn.

“I just gave up a couple times,” Boyles said. “I learned patience.”

The project took a big step forward Saturday with a groundbreaking in the Shawnee community, on the site for the Habitat home Boyles will share with her husband Larry and their 8-month-old son Levi.

“When it gets built, then it’ll be real,” she said.

Foundation work is scheduled to begin this week and the goal is to have the house finished in 120-150 days, according to Habitat of Effingham’s new board president, Tommy Blewett. The home will be built by volunteer workers and a contractor who is donating his time.

The Effingham Habitat chapter has not dedicated a house since September 2012, but Blewett said the new board intends to change that. Plans are to begin building another Habitat house, in Rincon, as soon as the Boyles’ home is completed.

“We have a goal to build a minimum of two houses a year from now on,” Blewett said. “We’re going to be pushing hard for that.”

Cristal Boyles served in the Army for nearly six years, as a transport truck driver. She saw duty in Operation Desert Storm, and her military decorations include the Kuwait Liberation Medal, Army Achievement Medal and Southeast Asia Service Medal with three Bronze Stars.

“We owe a great gratitude to her and to all veterans, as well as all active military,” Blewett said.

Along with some of the Boyles’ family, friends and fellow Habitat volunteers, representatives from Springfield’s American Legion Post 209 and its Ladies Auxiliary were on hand for the groundbreaking. Post 209 made a financial contribution toward construction of the house.

“There’s nothing I like any better than to help a vet,” said Kathy Deason, president of the Ladies Auxiliary.

Larry Boyles has volunteered with Habitat of Effingham for about a half-dozen years, and he met Cristal through the organization. He recalled the phone call he received one day from George Groce, Habitat’s local development director, asking if he could help Cristal after her car’s transmission went out, leaving her stranded on the side of the road.

“I gave her a hug and it cheered her up,” he said, “and when I got through fixing the car, I asked her to go on a date.”

The two were married in September 2012, and Levi came along eight months ago. Larry called his involvement in Habitat “a blessing,” for enabling him to help others in the community and to have the wife and son who “gave (him) a purpose in life.”

He also shrugged off the construction delays with their house. Larry runs his own home-improvement business, and he has worked on several Habitat homes as one of Effingham’s construction supervisors.

“If it wasn’t for God, none of this would be,” he said. “Everything has its own time when it happens.”

Nonetheless, the family is looking forward to the day they move into their Habitat house. For now, Cristal, Larry and Levi are living in a 20-foot camper behind Larry’s mother’s house.

“It’s getting crampy,” he said with a laugh.

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