By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Returning to Ohio to end his 21-year military career, Xenia resident Ian Williams and his wife, Tanya, were looking for a way to help his fellow soldiers.
“We were trying to support the other veterans,” he said. “We just wanted to give back.”
Williams — who is a Wounded Warrior and utilizes a service dog from 4 Paws For Ability for PTSD and mobile disabilities — found the perfect gift. And it’s one that will keep giving for a long time. He and his wife used his disability pay and in February bought a home on North Detroit Street near Shawnee Park and turned it into an alternative to a hotel for 4 Paws families undergoing service dog training.
And just two weeks later, Windsor’s Place — named after Williams’ service dog — had its first family.
But when they recently had to turn down a veteran because it was not wheelchair accessible, Ian and Tanya Williams knew they still had work to do.
However thanks to Lowes Home Improvement, that issue no longer exists. Spearheaded by Xenia store manager Kim Leeper, Lowes in Huber Heights, Springfield, Beavercreek and Xenia pooled their annual allotments for the Lowes Heroes Program — nearly $10,000 — and are having a ramp and stair lift installed, while doing other improvements around the 3,000 square-foot building.
Work began Tuesday and is expected to last about a week.
“They kind of took the whole project over,” Tanya Williams said. “I’ve been crying all day.” Insulation will be blown into the attic and walls will be stripped of paper and painted. Much of the material, and all employee time, have been donated.
“Our purpose at Lowes is to help customers love where they live and give back to the community,” Leeper said. The crew is also turning an extra second-floor kitchen into a study room for kids.
Once its complete, Ian and Tanya Williams will be able to offer the furnished home, with wifi, cable and a washer and dryer, to everyone in need.
Originally they started the venture by utilizing the basement of their personal home. But that quickly proved to be too small. So they bought Windsor’s Place and stocked it with furniture.
“We kind of put all our stuff from our house in it,” Tanya Williams said. She and Ian are hoping to gather some donations to further supply the place.
It’s not totally free. Families pay $139 a night, which is on par with the hotel in Beavercreek in which families usually stay.
“They’re not spending anymore money to stay here,” Tanya Williams said. But by staying in Xenia, families are closer to the 4 Paws facility and they are in a home-like environment for the two weeks they are in training. The families also know that they don’t have to worry about a sold-out hotel. 4 Paws only trains one family per month, but the family may not find out their exact dates until a few weeks before. At Windsor’s Place, 4 Paws families have priority in booking and can just reserve a particular month without knowing dates. Tanya Williams said they are booking as far out as 2018.
“I’m happy for them,” she said. “In their mind, they can say they know where they’re going to be.” Windsor’s Place is also available for general use the other two weeks each month.
Ian Williams enlisted in 1991 and has deployed to numerous war zones including Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He took part in Operation Cobra Judy, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, among others.