Villagers for Veterans is preparing to hand the keys to a new home in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown to a disabled military veteran.
Donors and supporters of Sgt. Pam Kelly are invited to attend the event, which will be held Saturday, June 27 at 11 a.m. A highly anticipated ribbon-cutting will take place at the new smart home at 1307 Teakwood Ln. in the Historic side of The Villages.
Kelly, a 17-year Army veteran who is well-known throughout The Villages, originally planned to spend her entire career in the Army. But all of that changed in 2002 when she suffered a devastating injury during a working sling-load operation while training for deployment to Iraq. Her spine was crushed when a cable snapped, leaving her permanently paralyzed with very limited use of one arm.
Kelly’s Village of Orange Blossom Gardens home, which in June 2019 received approval from the Architectural Review Committee, is block and mortar with a stucco finish. The state-of-the-art residence includes Smart Bluetooth technology, giving Kelly the ability to access everything from lighting to appliances through verbal commands via Siri and her iPad.
Custom-built finishes have been adapted specifically for the wheelchair-bound Kelly to accommodate the use of her left arm, with a sidewalk that will provide for a rear emergency exit and a wide driveway that will allow for her to be loaded into a specially fitted van.
In November 2019, those supporting the effort to build Kelly’s house were invited to stop by the building site and “put notes of love and support” on the inner walls and wood frames before the drywall was installed. That followed a January 2019 groundbreaking event that included visits from The Villages Twirlers and Drum Corps and World War II veteran Irving Locker, who was singled out and praised for his service by President Trump during his February 2019 State of the Union address.
At that groundbreaking event, Kelly took a moment to reflect on the past year and how excited she was at the thought of becoming a Villages resident.
“It’s enormous,” she said. “It’s gratitude. It’s grateful. It’s a blessing. It’s a godsend that this is happening and I have Marie in my life.”
Bogdonoff said she was extremely thankful to Villagers and others who made donations to make Kelly’s home a reality. She said the organization, which was created with the goal of providing greater mobility and independence to veterans who had lost limbs and their ability to move, raised enough money in just one year to pay for two-thirds of Kelly’s house.
“I always said The Villages is not for everybody but for some people, it’s the best place,” Bogdonoff said. “When Pam comes here, she’s so happy. She can go everywhere in her wheelchair. She can’t do that anyplace else. So we said, ‘This is a place for you.’”
When asked about Bogdonoff and everything she and Villagers for Veterans have done for her, Kelly looked away and wiped away tears.
“I’m not a crier; I’m a soldier,” said Kelly, who has been living in the Tampa area and participated in a flightless Villages Honor Flight in November 2018. “But when it comes to Marie, she’s the family I never had.”