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Habitat for Humanity volunteers help veteran build a new home in St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Kristopher Barajas, a retired Navy veteran, is working on building a house in St. Augustine alongside volunteers from Wells Fargo and Habitat for Humanity.

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Barajas, a Purple Heart recipient, received $15,000 as part of a $7.75 million donation to Habitat for Humanity International through Wells Fargo Builds.

“It’s very humbling. I’m very blessed. I’m very honored,” he said.

“He’s such a gentle person and seems so appreciative of our volunteers coming out,” said volunteer Marilyn Drayton, who is the senior vice president and social impact senior manager at Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo Builds is a $1 billion philanthropic commitment to create “housing affordability solutions” by 2025.

These solutions include the construction, renovation and repair of more than 350 affordable homes across America.

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Along Broach Street in St. Augustine, Wells Fargo Builds is laying the groundwork for Barajas’ new home. Barajas gets to join those building efforts since homeowners partnering with Habitat must put in the hard work, known as “sweat equity.”

“I feel very passionate about [construction], I get to use my creativity, get to use my hands, get to be outside,” Barajas said.

Barajas’ home will be done in about three to four months. Then, there will only be one home left to be constructed in the lot next door. At that point, all 18 homes in the entire neighborhood would’ve been built by volunteers.

Starting next year, Habitat for Humanity of St. Augustine is going to build about 36 more homes about three blocks away on the corner of N. St. Johns Street and Helen Street.

But for now, volunteers are focused on Barajas, and they’re honoring him for his service.

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Barajas served as a Fleet Marine Force corpsman from 2002 to 2009. During this time he was deployed to Iraq, and severely injured.

“I see a puff of smoke landing and boom, it felt like I got punched in the face,” he described as he remembered the moment of impact. “Took a shrapnel straight to the face,” he added.

Barajas’ sacrifices have not gone unnoticed.

“He’s received a Purple Heart,” Drayton highlighted.

“Kris is very humble,” said Malinda Everson, executive director with Habitat for Humanity of St. Augustine. “We didn’t even know he had a Purple Heart.”

“It’s just something that happens and you move on from it,” Barajas said. “You keep pushing forward to get the mission done.”

And now, his next mission of owning his dream home is almost complete.

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“We like to say it’s a hand up not a hand out because our homeowners work very hard on their homes and other homes in the neighborhood,” Everson explained. “They also, at the end of it, they buy the house. They have a mortgage just like everybody else. But it’s affordable.”

“It feels really great,” Barajas emphasized. “I mean, I’m really excited to say one day when I have friends and family, like, ‘Hey, this is something I built with my own two hands,’” he shared.

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