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Utah Dems wield hammers and brushes at convention

Published September 3, 2012 7:51 pm

Democrats finish home for unnamed veteran that Republicans started in Tampa.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Charlotte, N.C. • In punishing heat and tight quarters, a group of Utah Democrats spent a harried few minutes painting walls and nailing up siding on one half of a house that will soon be gifted to a veteran.

You read that right — one half of a house.

The other half of the modular home — constructed by Republican delegates in Tampa last week — is on a truck heading to North Carolina.

It was all part of the "House United" project, which will merge the bipartisan pieces by the end of October, on land donated by the city of Charlotte. A soon-to-be picked service member will get the keys.

"It underscores the reality that in this country we owe our veterans a great deal," said Karen McCoy, a retired Veterans Affairs employee from Salt Lake City, who spent time painting a kitchen wall.

Glenn Wright, of Park City, appreciates that people support veterans far more than they did when he returned from Vietnam, but he doesn't believe the government is doing all it should.

He became a Democratic activist and now leads the Summit County Democratic Party, spurred by the Iraq War, which he said was underfunded. He also insists Congress hasn't prepared for the long-term medical needs of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Angela Urrea, a one-time Army captain, appreciated the bipartisan gesture during such a partisan time. "It says we are all united behind our troops," she said, but she too believes the government needs to do more.

Urrea, a delegate from Roy, said too many veterans are unemployed or underemployed and many cannot afford a home, which is one reason she took pride in Monday's event, where she painted a hallway.

But she didn't hold a paintbrush for long. About 20 Utahns took part in the service project. Some spent as little as 15 minutes putting the finishing touches on a bedroom, while others put in nearly 45 minutes nailing up light blue vinyl siding.

The time crunch wasn't a choice. People from twenty state delegations signed up to volunteer during the eight-hour period, while in Tampa, where the project was farther away from the convention area, only eight participated. The Utah Republicans were not among them, though they did perform a service project, making hygiene kits to send to the Gulf Coast for those displaced by Hurricane Isaac.

Ty Pennington, the star of ABC's "Exreme Makeover: Home Edition," led the effort sponsored by Craftsman, Sears' Heroes at Home, Tampa Bay Rebuilding Together, NextGen Home by Champion and Bank of America.

mcanham@sltrib.comTwitter: @mattcanham