Apple Valley Builder Gives Hope to Wounded Soldier and Family

James Barton Design Build is donating its services to remodel a home for a soldier who lost his sight in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan.

James Madsen, owner of James Barton Design-Build in Apple Valley, was in the Army National Guard for six years. One of his former employees went on to serve two tours in Iraq. So when Madsen was asked to help remodel the home of a decorated U.S. Army soldier, Madsen said he couldn’t say no.

“I knew immediately this was something our company wanted to be involved in,” Madsen said.

The recipients are Susan and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Wesley Cureton of Minneapolis. Wesley has 23 years of military service, and was awarded two Purple Hearts and several other honors.

During Wesley’s second tour with Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, a mortar shell exploded on the other side of a door as he tried to retrieve wounded soldiers in his unit. The door hit his face, crushing it. He suffered permanent blindness and neurological damage. His face was reconstructed and his jaw had to be wired shut.

Due to his injuries, Wesley is unable to control his body temperature, so going outdoors is difficult, Susan said.

“The Curetons are such a deserving family and have given up so much for this country,” Madsen said. “Wesley served for all of us, now it’s our time to give back to Wesley and his family.”

Madsen has a seat on the Builder’s Association of the Twin Cities Foundation committee, which chooses projects to sponsor. Choosing the Curetons as recipients was an easy decision, Madsen said.

More than 500 hours have been donated to the project thus far, and 2,000 more are expected before the remodel project is completed.

Phase One

Phase one was to finish the basement of the Curetons’ home, which was left unfinished and without a heating system, abandoned by a previous organization.

“It was a tough winter with no heat,” Susan said.

Within a few weeks, the BATC members had finished the basement, including building a third bedroom and handicapped bathroom.

“I don’t know what we would have done,” Susan said. “We would have been up a creek without a paddle.”

Builders also erected a fence in the yard so Wesley could walk outside without falling down the hill.

“We really had a good time going in,” Madsen said. “It was a collaboration of different owners.”

Phase Two

But the company's contributions didn’t stop there. Phase two of the remodel begins this fall.

Plans include remodeling the kitchen and adding a four-season porch to the home. The porch floor will be heated so Wesley is able to stabilize his body temperature.

The house’s back entrance will be extended to give the 6-foot-2-inch Wesley more head room when he walks downstairs.

“He can’t take any more knocks,” Susan said.

Phase two is funded through BATC, with James Barton Design-Build as the design lead. Madsen solicited help from fellow trade professionals, so the project, valued at $112,000, is expected to cost the foundation about $45,000. Suppliers either donated materials or are selling them at cost.

“I think it builds good camaraderie,” Madsen said. “It also gives good light to an industry that’s not always viewed in a very good light.”

A Tradition of Giving Back

This is not the first time James Barton Design-Build has given back to the community. Last fall, employees helped a Chanhassen family whose son had undergone two liver transplants before age 2.

The company office's walls are decorated with recognition and service awards from past projects.

“When our company takes on projects, we need projects that have a story,” Madsen said. “[W]hat we try to do is find projects that have a story behind them to where you really can’t say no.”

Helping the Curetons has moved beyond professional courtesies, to a personal mission for the Madsens. They are trying to help Wesley obtain a seeing-eye dog so that he can regain some of his independence.

“We’re very lucky to be working with them,” Susan said.

Visit the BATC Foundation website for more information about its work.


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