Photo: Army veteran Rita Rowland works through the rain on what will soon be her new home.
Army veteran to finally get home of her own — in memory of Bob Crowley
WEST POINT, Georgia — The rain has simply been unrelenting at this week’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build hosted by the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project.
Build leaders and house captains have had to constantly scramble to organize workarounds, and volunteers are understandably weary of of being waterlogged on a daily basis. They’ve all approached the weather in different ways, such as pretending it’s not there, laughing and joking their way through it, and — though this is a Christian housing ministry — probably cursing it every now and then.
Silently, of course.
It’s unlikely that anyone has been caught singing in the rain. However, if someone were to be caught doing so, it likely would be Rita Rowland, the homeowner partner for Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project House No. 65. (House No. 66 for Latrisha Finley is being built next-door.)
The joy is be understandable for a grandmother who has never owned her own home. The singing also would not be a surprise for anyone who was at Sunday’s kickoff dinner when Rowland joined Bethlehem Baptist Church musician Brandon Murphy as he performed for the volunteers.
But there’s a little more to the story: Rowland was assigned to the Army Soldier Show, which is comprised of soldiers who tour installations around the globe. Singing was not just a hobby for Rowland; it was her mission in the Army.
“We entertained the troops,” said Rowland, who entered the Army in 1987, serving 14 years active duty and then serving in the National Guard.
If she breaks out into song this week, she’s not doing it under orders. She is thrilled with the opportunity to finally own a home of her own, in which she will raise a 12-year-old granddaughter. For the past 15 years, she has lived in a unit of the West Point Housing Authority, an organization with which she also has been employed.
Rowland has been quick with a smile and just as eager to hug volunteers and work alongside them — including the 17 strangers from Pennsylvania assigned to her home who already have become new friends.
“It’s just blessings on top of blessings,” she said. “These are God-fearing people. I grew up in the church, singing in the choir, so it means something extra that these are Christian people who are helping. Thank you so much for being here for me, and thank you for the blessing.”
Rowland has others to thank for the blessing of a simple, decent home. Bob Crowley, a long-time supporter of Millard Fuller’s ministry and The Fuller Center for Housing, passed away on June 8, 2020. According to his wishes, he asked that in lieu of flowers and cards that mourners give instead to The Fuller Center for Housing. They did, in force.
His wife of 61 years, Mimi, said that while Bob never served in the armed forces, he was a strong supporter of active duty personnel and veterans and had a huge heart for serving others in any way he could. In his work like as an engineer, he developed hardware used in military missile systems and desiccators utilized by NASA in the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. His inventions included a lifting device for the disabled.
But he had a special fondness for helping to build homes. In addition to helping build homes in the United States, he did the same in such countries as Hungary, the Philippines, South Korea, South Africa, Armenia, El Salvador, Peru, India, Tanzania and Mexico. So, Mimi took those donations made in Bob’s honor a step further with a fundraiser to build a home for a veteran.
Mimi and other family members have been in West Point this week. Mimi said that it has been a real thrill to meet Rita Rowland and see the progress on the house, even through the torrential downpours.
“Bob was never in the service, but he had a real heart for serving others,” Mimi said. “He would be very happy with this.”