NORTH TONAWANDA – A home built by volunteers meant to symbolize and celebrate the best in people has brought out the worst in some.
The house on Sherwood Avenue for wounded veteran Marine Cpl. Paul Schaus has been burglarized twice in the past two months.
“There’s no way they cannot know that. There’s a giant … sign that says, ‘Future home of Cpl. Paul Schaus Marine Corps,’ ” said Jodie Buckley, a cousin of Schaus and an employee of Grand Jude Plumbing, a general contractor working on the project, of the burglars.
“It’s infuriating. It’s bad enough to steal from anyone, but to steal from a disabled veteran. It just makes it that much worse,” Buckley said.
“He served his country and lost both his legs and part of his right hand. This is how someone thanks him for that?”
Schaus, who lost both legs and part of a finger after stepping on a land mine in June 2009 while serving in Afghanistan, was welcomed back from the Middle East in July by his new neighbors, who lined the street with flags and welcome signs.
Hundreds of volunteers donated their time to build him a handicapped-accessible house. Land was donated and funds to build the house were obtained by a grant from Homes for Our Troops, a national organization that builds homes for severely injured veterans.
Schaus, 23, who is from the Town of Tonawanda and is a graduate of Kenmore West High School, told The Buffalo News in July that it was “humbling to see the generosity out there.”
Buckley said volunteers came into the house earlier this month to do some work and found that someone had stolen a security television from the master bathroom, ripping it off the wall, damaging the dry wall and bending the steel plates that held it there.
Buckley said this is not the first theft from the house; in late August, someone stripped a small piece of copper from the outside of the house.
“We really wanted to do this for Paul. Most of the work [for the new house] has been donated – materials, labor – by wonderful individuals in our community,” Buckley said.
She said Schaus has been living with his mother.
She also said the new house will be 100 percent handicapped-accessible.
“He will have the freedom to move through his house without barriers, no stairs, everything on one level. This is going to be complete independence for him,” Buckley said.
Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call North Tonawanda Police at 692-4111.