Since 1985, Habitat for Humanity Buffalo has dedicated 257 homes in the city.

Roofs over heads have been built; countless lives have been significantly improved.

But never has Buffalo’s affiliate of the not-for-profit Christian housing ministry pursued a project quite like this.

For the first time, Habitat will serve those who have served the country, constructing homes for veterans and their families through the Veterans Build project.

Habitat hopes to build at least one home for a veteran over each of the next five years, and the first build is already underway.

A single-story home on the first block of Fox Street on the East Side, between Broadway and Sycamore Street, is about 30 percent complete. In a few short months, an Iraq veteran, his wife and two daughters will call the residence home.

While the veteran’s home is one of Habitat’s typical “green”-built, energy-efficient structures, the project has special meaning to volunteers.

“There’s nothing special with the house per se,” said Ronald G. Talboys, president of Habitat Buffalo. “It’s the same kind of house. It’s a little special in the sense that we can help a veteran, so we’re happy to do that.

“I certainly appreciate what they’ve done,” Talboys added. “We serve on the home front, and so if we can help them with our service, they’ve helped us with their service. … That’s a way we can say ‘thank you’ to them.”

To raise money to finish the first veteran’s home, Habitat will hold an 80-plus-mile motorcycle dice run Aug. 16, beginning and ending at the Armor Inn, 5381 Abbott Road, Hamburg. Registration begins at 8:45 a.m., and kickstands will go up at 10:45 a.m.

Richard W. Brookins, 92, of Henrietta, a World War II veteran who saw action during the Battle of the Bulge, will serve as the event’s grand marshal.

The registration fee on the day of the event is $20 for a driver and $30 for a driver and passenger.

Preregistration is $15 for a driver and $25 for a driver and passenger. For more information, call Habitat volunteer and event organizer Ronald W. Schopf at (716) 348-4945.

Originally, Habitat planned to build five homes for veterans, but volunteers hope the project extends beyond that number.

“We’re going to build a lot of homes in Buffalo for veterans,” said Schopf, who noted that each year, Habitat builds about four or five new homes and rehabilitates another 10 in the city.

However, Schopf and Talboys said attracting veterans to apply for a house has been more difficult than anticipated.

They hope that will change over time as word of the project spreads.

According to Habitat for Humanity International, about 1.4 million veterans are currently stricken by poverty.

Those who apply for a Habitat home complete a thorough application process. Selected families must meet certain income qualifications and put in 500 hours of sweat equity. Habitat homes are purchased with a zero-interest mortgage.

Habitat also is seeking veterans to volunteer with the Veterans Build project. Those who are interested can call the Buffalo affiliate’s office at (716) 204-0740, ext. 105.

Providing the less fortunate with a quality place to live makes all of the hard work worthwhile, Schopf said.

“It’s an American dream,” he said. “If you could hear the stories that we hear from people who get Habitat homes, they’re unbelievable. They’re fantastic people.”

One woman’s reaction at a home dedication service about four years ago stands out to the Orchard Park volunteer.

“I took the lady out in the kitchen and she started to cry – I mean sob,” Schopf said.

“And I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ She said, ‘Ronnie, I’m 33 years old, I have never received anything brand new in my entire life,’ and she went over and hugged the stove because it was brand new.”