We have received the most amazing, incredible, extraordinary, unbelieveable blessing!! Operation Opening Doors of South Dakota, in partnership with Associated General Contractors South Dakota Building Chapter and JDH Construction, has chosen our home for a remodel! This remodel will make our home more accessible and safe for Sean and will incorporate features to assist him in his day to day living. We are THRILLED to be a part of this magnificent project!
|Broke gound October 30th
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Operation Opening Doors Kicks off Eighth Project in South Dakota
Operation Opening Doors–Project Page on Facebook
Contractors Lending a Hand to Veterans
Group working to modify disabled vet’s home in Aberdeen
By Scott Waltman
After a career of serving his community and his country, it’s now Sean Johnson’s turn to be served.
Johnson used to work for Aberdeen Fire and Rescue and spent 23 years in the U.S. Army Reserve’s Aberdeen-based 452nd Ordnance Co. In March 2006, while he was deployed in Iraq, a mortar shell exploded next to him. The blast resulted in a traumatic brain injury that ultimately left Johnson blind. Now, a group called Operation Opening Doors is raising money to renovate Johnson’s home in Aberdeen to make it easier for him to get around.
Operation Opening Doors is a nonprofit arm of the Associated General Contractors South Dakota Building Chapter that focuses on renovating or building new homes for veterans who were disabled while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Johnson’s house is the group’s eighth project in the state and its first in Aberdeen.
Plans call for work on Johnson’s house to begin yet this fall. The project will cost an estimated $106,000 with that total including donated time, equipment and materials, said Michelle Lounsbery, executive director of the Associated General Contractors of South Dakota Building Chapter. She said that more than $30,000 has already been raised.
During a kickoff program for the project Tuesday night at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, Johnson said he and his wife, Melissa, are grateful and humble by the community support. Having a home that’s more accessible will he helpful, he said.
Earlier this year, Johnson was awarded the Purple Heart at a ceremony in Aberdeen.
Lounsbery said a new, larger bathroom with a walk-in shower and other features will be built in an addition to the home. And, she said, the area in the existing home that is now the bathroom and bedroom area will be converted into an expanded, larger bedroom.
Les Cummings of Sioux Falls is the retired state command sergeant major of the South Dakota Army National Guard. He founded Operation Opening Doors about a decade ago. He said the program went broke in trying to do its first couple of home improvement projects. That’s when it partnered with the Associated General Contractors of South Dakota, he said.
More recently, Operation Opening Doors has teamed up with the Associated General Contractors of America, Cummings said. Together, they have built new homes for or made improvements to the homes of 27 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have disabilities, he said.
JDH Construction of Aberdeen is the lead contractor on the Johnson project. But subcontractors willing to do anything from work on cupboards to putting in plumbing are still needed, Cummings said.
He said he and Johnson have known each other for years. When they were visiting at a veterans hunt, Cummings said Johnson noted that it would be helpful if he had more room in his home’s bathroom and bedroom. That’s how the project got on Operation Opening Doors’ radar.
“It’s amazing to watch the tears flow down a family’s face when you go to them and say we are willing to support you and thank you for your service,” Cummings said.
Donations to the Operation Opening Doors Aberdeen project to renovate the Johnsons’ home can be dropped off at or mailed to Plains Commerce Bank; 524 S. Dakota St.; Aberdeen, SD 57401.
Copyright © 2012, Aberdeen News