BRISTOL, Tenn. — Two local families facing housing instability are getting brand new homes thanks to the Appalachia Service Project’s sixth annual Race to Build event taking place this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Located at a temporary construction site in the Fan Midway section of the Bristol Motor Speedway complex, Race to Build is a three-day event where students from two colleges compete for scholarships as they race to build the best fastest home for two families in need who will receive the homes mortgage-free, courtesy of ASP and its partners.
Checking in on the competition Friday morning, new U.S. Army veteran Roland Smith Jr. was almost at a loss for words.
“It’s overwhelming,” Smith said as he watched the construction crew from the University of Nebraska work on his home. “I’m really speechless, because it’s something I never imagined. It’s a dream come true.
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A Gulf War veteran, Smith is homeless, but found refuge at the Salvation Army in Johnson City. He says the new home will provide a place where his 16-year-old son can come and visit. He also says the new house will help him help others who may need shelter. He also looks forward to the simple things that a permanent home will bring, like heating and air conditioning, and a place to barbecue.
“It’s like an unreal experience,” Smith said. “I pinch myself every day.”
Julie Thompson, director of new construction and disaster recovery at ASP, said building homes off the freeway during race weekend is a great way to raise awareness of the department’s work. Christian in central Appalachia.
“It’s a lot easier to build a house on a permanent foundation, but it’s important for us to be here,” Thompson said. “Our headquarters are in the Tri-Cities, so this is our home [and] there are still people who don’t know us and what we offer families and our home repair ministry and our home replacement ministry, so just spread the word about what we do, how people can get involved, (is huge).”
The event concludes with a closing ceremony on Saturday at 4 p.m.