Unions stepping up to help build home for veteran living in a shed

Published: Dec. 8, 2016 at 8:39 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2016 at 10:31 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Unions across WAVE Country are stepping up to help a veteran facing tough times this holiday season. Sam Virga and his girlfriend were living in a shed after a dispute with a contractor left their home in ruins.

Now, dozens of union members from all across the area say they are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work, after seeing the couple's story on WAVE 3 News.

Blueprints in hand and holiday spirit in their heart, the union members drew up plans to get Virga and his girlfriend Betty into a new home when they met at UAW Local 862 Tuesday afternoon.

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"Our central value is that when we come together we make our community a better place to live and we make our state a better place to live," said Caitlin Lally of UFCW Local 227.
Sam and Betty were living in a shed after they paid Skyshield Restoration $15,000 in insurance money to do emergency flood repairs to their Okolona home. Skyshield did those repairs, but walked out on the job when the insurance money ran out, leaving the house in shambles.

"And believe me I pray every night," Betty told Troubleshooter Eric Flack back in November. "Whether it does any help or not."

"Look where we're living," Sam said, as he pointed around the 14 by 14 foot shed. "From a man who didn't do what he was supposed to do."

The story touched thousands across WAVE Country, including deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, Heather French Henry.

She brought her team to the home the day after Sam and Betty's story aired, and within days the KDVA secured funding from Habitat for Humanity pay for the Virga's new home.

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Now, a dozen different unions from across the city are donating their time to build it, including: UAW Local 862, UFCW Local 227, the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council, UA 502, IBEW 369, Roofers Local 147, Painters Local and Carpenters Local 2501 among others.

"You can take the union off the table for all I'm concerned," said Rich Russ of UA 502. "I've got guys that are veterans that are standing up right now. They want to help."

And they're not the only ones.

With months of construction still ahead, John Price couldn't stand to see Sam and Betty in that shed anymore. So the Nelson County man contacted WAVE 3, to offer the couple his 500 square foot camper to live in until their house is complete.

It's has a kitchen, closets, and an indoor bathroom. All things Sam and Betty were without until now.

"You know honestly, it's real disheartening that there's people that let this go on," Price said as he choked up. "Um, I get emotional. Take care of the neighbor. That's what you should do."

French Henry says River City Flooring has agreed to provide flooring once the home is built. KDVA has also gotten HVAC and appliances donated. Unfortunately with the holidays around the corner, Habitat won't be able to start on the new home until after the 1st of the year.

Copyright 2016, WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.