Marine veteran to get Habitat home

Staff report


In 2010, Ron Borngesser decided he wanted to help a fellow veteran with a disability.

In March, his wish finally will come true.

Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning County this month announced a house-building project for local Marine Corps veteran James Skok and his family in partnership with Borngesser’s American Legion Post 301 in the township.

“After you see so much death and destruction, we have it so good,” Skok said. “I thank God for everything he’s blessed me in. Now, I’m getting a house.”

Skok served in the Marine Corps from 1992 to 2010 and injured his back in the line of duty.

The project is set to begin with a groundbreaking ceremony in early March.

Monica Craven, director of the county’s Habitat organization, said the funds likely will not be completely raised by the start of the project. She expects funds to be raised fully after the project begins.

The house will be built in Austintown, Habitat’s first veteran’s-build project there.

“It’s really neat that we’re in a new town,” Craven said. “We’re getting a whole new population of people understanding what Habitat can do.”

A big chunk of the money has come from a grant from FirstEnergy, Craven said.

Borngesser began pursuing the project more than three years ago, meeting with county officials to look for potential properties to build a home for a veteran.

The chosen location, at 3889 New Road, was acquired by the Mahoning County Land Bank after its owner was delinquent in paying taxes, Craven said.

The property was then cleared by the land bank with money received from the state, Borngesser said.

Borngesser and Craven applied to use the property for their project and received the deed to the land earlier this month, Borngesser said.

“I think it’s great. I’m a veteran, it’s [for] a veteran,” Borngesser said. “I’m glad they’re actually stepping up and doing something.”

Borngesser chose Skok as the recipient of the house through a drawing that took place last April. Around 15 veterans applied.

Habitat requires Skok and his family to put in 400 hours of work on the house as part of the project.

The house will be largely built by volunteer work, Craven said. The construction, which requires licensing such as plumbing and electrical work, will be done by contractors.

To raise funds for the project, Habitat will have a Zumba-thon, or aerobic dance session, for age 12 and older from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 15 at Austintown Elementary School, 225 Idaho Road. Registration fee is $15 in advance or $20 the day of the event. For information, contact Kim at

Habitat also is accepting monetary donations and gifts of service on the house.

Skok joined other Marines across the country by standing guard at a local school after the December 2012 shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

“I try to help out as much as I can.” Skok said. “I hope I made a difference.”

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