11/19/06 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
Working on the foundation of the Benoit home are, from left, John Gangemi, Councilman Vincent Binkoski, Councilman Scott Hutchins, Liz Young and borough administrator Jon Reinhardt. Councilmen David Young, Liz Young's husband, and Councilman-elect Thomas Yeager also helped.

What you can do

To get involved in the home-building project for wounded Iraq war veteran Army Spc. Jim Benoit, call Wharton Borough Hall at (973) 361-8444.

Wharton pulls together on home for newlyweds

Administrator, council members and families get foundation going



WHARTON -- Wharton Councilman Scott Hutchins gets a call from the roofing contractor once a week -- the tradesman can't wait to get started.

Hutchins, who is overseeing construction of a handicapped-accessible home for Army Spc. Jim Benoit, hopes he won't keep the roofer waiting much longer.

He's eager to have the house ready for the newlyweds, who will be returning to New Jersey in December following a honeymoon at Walt Disney World.

Temporary home

Until the home is ready, Jim's mother, Missy, and officials at Picatinny Arsenal have worked out arrangements allowing Benoit, 24, to live temporarily on the Army base in Rockaway Township. Benoit, a Wharton native, was wounded while serving in Iraq last year.

On Veterans Day, a half-dozen volunteers, including Hutchins, wearing a Wharton Pride T-shirt, laid the groundwork for the foundation.

The crew included councilman David Young, his wife and two children; Councilman Vincent Binkoski; Wharton administrator Jon Reinhardt and his son, and Thomas Yeager, a councilman-elect. They spread crushed stone inside and outside the footing forms, creating the mold for the concrete footings. Next week, they hope to get the foundation walls under way.

Shortly, the process should speed up, Hutchins said. He's hoping to have the house frame standing before the weather gets too cold to work outside.

He has a mason and the supplies to construct the foundation, as long as the weather holds up. Once the framing starts, he will need supplies such as plywood, 2-by-4s, 2-by-10s and nails. And any extra hands are welcome, he said.

"I seem to have a tradesman for everything, but we can always use more people,"Hutchins said.

To bridge the gap until the house is ready, Missy Benoit and Picatinny officials worked out a plan that has Benoit "attached" to the Picatinny base. Benoit has spent 14 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., recovering from extensive injuries to his backside.

He was injured during a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad last year.

Picatinny has a furnished wheelchair-accessible trailer as part of its temporary guest quarters that it is making available to Benoit, a Picatinny spokeswoman confirmed.

In the works

The home-building project has been in the works since March, when Wharton's mayor and council announced that they were donating town-owned property for the house. Hutchins said they have faced the typical red-tape and delays encountered when building a home. Plus, it's an all-volunteer crew giving of their free time.

"Everyone involved has been great -- this is a committed and dedicated group of folks,"Hutchins said. "If I had to pay for everything, we'd never be able to afford this."

Already, the engineering and architectural services would have cost about $12,000, he estimated.

Designed for free

The house was designed gratis by Wharton-based architect Kenneth Fox of Fox Architectural Design. When completed, it will be a two-story colonial, with the first floor including a bedroom suite, a living/dining room area and a kitchen.

There also will be a deck off the rear of the house so Benoit can look out over the Rockaway River below.

The second floor will include two bedrooms.