On a cold weekend in 2010, then eleven-year-old Alex Kielty watched in wonder as the community and HFOT staff came together to build an adapted home for her stepfather, Army Staff Sergeant Michael Downing. Michael lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan in 2008. After watching her and her family’s forever home be built before her eyes, she knew she had found her calling. “I had never been around a construction site before with so many parts and moving pieces. I was truly fascinated,” she says.
Fast forward nine years later, and Alex is now studying construction management at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston and works as an office assistant for the Construction Team at HFOT during school breaks. Watching firsthand the transformation of an injured Veteran in an HFOT home is why she chose this path. When Michael first came home from the hospital, Alex says he needed help with most things because their antique, three-story New England home could not accommodate Michael’s wheelchair. “We realized quickly that our house no longer felt like a home to him,” she says.
Since receiving their HFOT home, Alex and her family have enjoyed watching Michael regain his independence within the home and return to doing the activities he loves like golfing, hunting, fishing, and riding his Harley trike. Alex’s mother, Dawnalee, was able to return to work knowing Michael is safe at home and Alex and her siblings have all gotten their first jobs and advanced their education. “This house has given our family the physical, mental, and financial freedom we could not have had in our previous homes. We have been beyond blessed as a direct result of HFOT and the amazing work they do,” she says.
When Alex was searching for a summer job in 2018 to complement her studies, she knew HFOT was where she wanted to be. Alex is grateful for the skills she’s learning and knows it will be invaluable in her future career. “The HFOT Family celebrates my successes and supports me in all of my shortcomings,” she says. “I have been very lucky to be exposed to all things construction and gain real work experience before I graduate.”
Alex wants to use her experience to help others. “As someone living in an ADA compliant home, I knew I could bring vital personal experience to the industry and hopefully improve ADA compliant designs for others in the future.”
Alex also hopes to break the stigma that the construction industry is a man’s world. “I hope to show other girls my age that there is a need for women in construction and companies are desperately trying to fill that need,” she says.
Alex plans to complete her degree in August 2021 and hopes to pursue a career with a local firm in the Boston area with a focus on ADA compliant design after she graduates.
Read more about the impact of our homes at www.hfotusa.org/impact.