Businessman sparks unique celebration of service

Local business owner Don Bebee of Liberty Buildings recently sparked a unique “Celebration of Service” honoring an area military veteran who will receive a new home this month. (Photo by Dana Delgado)

Local business owner Don Bebee of Liberty Buildings recently sparked a unique “Celebration of Service” honoring an area military veteran who will receive a new home this month. (Photo by Dana Delgado)

By Dana Delgado

Although Don Bebee’s personal and professional world has been severely shaken in the last 60 days, the Liberty Hill businessman didn’t think twice when he decided to make sure someone he barely knew a few years ago acquired her own personal peace.

Bebee’s mother, who had courageously survived cancer five years ago, succumbed to the disease Sept.  3 after it had returned with a vengeance and spread throughout her body. His father nearing age 90 had to move in with him the first week of October because of the onset of dementia. If that wasn’t enough, Bebee’s thriving local business, Liberty Buildings at 10280 Highway 29 West adjacent to Margarita’s Restaurant, suffered a setback a few months earlier when a national building manufacturer he had been doing business with broke off ties with him over a professional disagreement.

“These have been some of the toughest days in my life,” said an emotional Bebee who struggled describing the events of the last few months as his father, on a riding mower, tended to the business’ lawn under his son’s watchful eye.

Though rocked, Don Bebee remains rock solid as a testament to his character, principles and will.

After a few moments, a tearful Bebee composed himself, reflectively gazed out his office window, and then began talking proudly of his business which is celebrating its third anniversary in Liberty Hill selling cabins, sheds, lofted barns, garages, carports, fun-scapes and playhouses as well as utility buildings to a “fantastic customer base” but now with a new primary manufacturer, Star-Tec Builders, a national leader in the portable building industry.

“I stayed with Star-Tec because they stand for excellence and incredible value,” he said. “There are many advantages like faster turn-around-time than the competition, and professional delivery and setup.”

Star-Tec, built on renowned Mennonite craftsmanship, has distinguished itself nationally over the last 13 years by using only the highest quality products like premium pressure-treated siding on all treated buildings, free delivery and setup and offering customers the ability to purchase through a rent-to-own option without a credit check.

Excited about his partnership with Star-Tec and success in Liberty Hill, Bebee said, “We don’t just build buildings, we meet needs. And we all have needs.”

Meeting the needs of military veteran Shirley Wright of Bertram is something the Liberty Hill businessman couldn’t wait to talk about.

Wright, a former military nurse who has ventured in a number of enterprises including animal rescue, has been trying to make do with her small Spartan home that houses her and her two adopted granddaughters. Wright’s daughter also recently joined them.

Bebee first met Wright two years ago when she came by his business looking for housing options. That first meeting left such an impression on Bebee that he nominated her to the Home Depot Foundation, which recognizes the great sacrifices of veterans as well as the major challenges many veterans face including housing.

“Don Bebee’s is the biggest angel on earth,” said Ms.  Wright.  “He knows I’ve been through a lot trying to hold on to my place and make a home for my daughter and granddaughters.”

Ms. Wright comes from a family where 19 members have served in the military. The Vietnam-era veteran entered the military to become an x-ray technician, but ended up being trained as a licensed vocational nurse.  She served at Fort McClennan, Alabama; Germany; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Hawaii, and Washington, D.C.

“We all volunteered for Vietnam and wanted to be there to help,” she said. “I had some really good friends many who went on to teaching hospitals, but had some really tough times while I was in the service.”

When she finally left the military due to her Lupus being aggravated by her military duty, she was denied the retirement disability she felt she was due. After a five-year battle with the Veterans Administration, Ms. Wright won the retirement she felt she deserved with the help of the Texas Veterans Commission.

In 1993, she moved to Texas after seeing a Washington Post ad for a farm with 20 acres in Thrall.

On her way, however, the Army veteran suffered a double heart attack. Unable to work and waiting on her retirement status to be resolved, she lost the farm. Hutto, Round Rock and Driftwood were her next Texas stops before settling on a 23-acre farm in Bertram.

During this time around 2008, the state threatened to remove her granddaughters, Marissa Nicole and Tailyn Marie, from her daughter who had been suffering from severe depression following their births.

“There was no way I was going to lose my granddaughters,” Ms. Wright said. “I fought for them and adopted them. My daughter, Rene Collette Wright, who is their mother, is doing much better and working with FedEx at the Austin airport.”

Ms. Wright has also had to deal with the scars of an abusive former spouse and more recent had to cope with storm damage to her property over the years and has not had sufficient funds to do the necessary repairs

According to National Center for Veterans Analysis and  Statistics, The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans’ and the Department of Veterans Affairs Statistics at a Glance, statistics show that many veterans face severe housing needs. Sometimes, it’s because of a disability from combat injuries or because they’ve been particularly hard hit by the economy, and other times because they simply can’t find affordable housing. Approximately 9 million veterans are senior citizens, many of whom live on fixed incomes. Furthermore, 1.4 million veterans live in poverty and are twice as likely to be homeless than those who haven’t served.

In addition, women veterans have greater homelessness risks than male veterans, and their homeless numbers are rising. The number of homeless women veterans, which is twice the rate of non-veteran women, increased 141 percent between 2006 and 2010.

To ensure that veterans have a safe place to call home, the Home Depot Foundation has committed $80 million over five years to the effort. In addition, Home Depot associates along with veteran-minded non-profit organizations and local businesses, undertake service projects to transform the homes and lives of veterans across the country with a special emphasis on families and women veterans during this 2013 Celebration of Service campaign.

The week of Oct. 21 will be the celebration of Shirley Wright’s military service. Star-Tec Builders will deliver two specially pre-constructed buildings that they are building at their factory in Temple. Once fused together, Ms. Wright’s living space will increase from 288 square feet to 1,472 square feet and include four bedrooms and two bathrooms.

An army of volunteers coordinated by Home Deport will descend on the site to completely outfit the buildings.

“All she (Shirley Wright) could say was ‘what?” said Star-Tec owner John Chavarria when he first visited with Ms. Wright to talk to her of the project to celebrate her service. “She was very appreciative and fought back tears.”

“It’s going to change our lives,” Ms. Wright said. “It’s going to be so good to have a real home.  It is so wonderful that this can happen. It’s been a real hard struggle. The good Lord has been looking after me. Coming to Texas was the best decision I ever made.”

“It’s amazing how things work out,” said Bebee.  “When we get to be a part of this, it’s bigger than we are. It’s a blessing from God. It will change their lives especially those young girls. At the end of time, it’s how you treat one another that’s important.”