David Dise helped kickstart the effort for The Blake House. Photo by Chris Dovi
The smells of fresh construction — paint, sawdust and drywall — hang heavy in the air at 1518 Perry St. The newly painted façade of the building now, a cheerful yellow, presents an inviting face, intended to welcome the homeless veterans who soon will come here to regain their footing and turn their lives around. But these won't be just any veterans.
"A homeless, female veteran and [her] children," says David Dise, one of the many volunteers who made this place, The Blake House, possible. "If you can't connect with that, you need to check your pulse."
Dise's pulse has been beating fast ever since a meeting earlier this year of the business advisory board of the Mid-Atlantic Paralyzed Veterans of America, the parent organization of the Wounded Warrior Project. Dise organized that board.
In the meeting, Frank Blake Jr., Richmond district manager for Home Depot, and the son of the national home-improvement company's CEO, was looking for a project. Dise had that idea.
"One thing led to another," says Dise. "They were like, ‘Can we make that happen?'" The answer, it turns out, was yes.
The Blake House, named for Home Depot's CEO, represents a partnership of more than a dozen businesses and individuals, including the Aaron's rent-to-own retailer, the Ellen Foundation, various churches, Anderson Windows and a local law firm. Dise's own company, Basic Auto Sales, donated a new passenger van.
Fiddling with the lock, Dise opens a front door waiting to welcome the first of an expected eight women — many likely with children — sent here through referral from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Inside, a commercial kitchen, café-style dining room, commercial laundry room, library and playroom all are near completion, almost ready to become home for women who served their country.
Dise surveys the fresh paint and new beds that will greet the home's residents. "Think about being here. You're a lady. You served your country. And then to be homeless. Then to be here."