By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — Many hands have made quick work of tearing out the Captain Joseph House's interior, and renovations have begun to create the nation's only expense-paid respite for families of those killed in military action.
Tom Cox, volunteer coordinator with the Captain Joseph House Foundation, said last week that excavation has begun on what will eventually be the concrete foundations for the kitchen expansion and new sun room of the circa-1910 house.
Volunteers and crews paid through donations are working to build a dream conceived by Betsy Reed Schultz after her son, Army Capt. Joseph Schultz, was killed in Afghanistan on May 29, 2011.
She is converting the former Tudor Inn bed-and-breakfast she formerly owned at 1108 S. Oak St., in Port Angeles into a place for grieving families to unwind, cook their meals, share their experiences and partake of the North Olympic Peninsula's outdoors.
Up to three families of armed services members killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001, will be hosted at a time, from Sunday to Friday, with all expenses paid.
Schultz expects the Captain Joseph House, now owned by the Captain Joseph House Foundation, to open sometime this year, but does not know an exact date.
“It depends on volunteer numbers — which have been tremendous — and dollars,” she said.
After four months of work, demolition inside the home, done mostly with volunteer labor, was completed late last year, Cox said.
The walls were taken down to the studs and the old plumbing and wiring were ripped out.
Some of the home's older features, such as the original wood trim, were kept so they can be reincorporated into the remodel, Cox said.
“The idea is to restore the house to its original look,” he said.
Schultz estimated the foundation needs another $200,000 to complete the remodel, although individuals and businesses who continue to donate dollars and services “whittles away the cost of remodeling.”
The foundation board is estimating that about $900,000 will be needed annually to operate the home, she added.
The home's five bedrooms will be converted into three large, wheelchair-accessible suites, which has required completely removing some walls, Cox said.
The finished home will have an expanded kitchen, a sun room and a wheelchair-accessible elevator to the second floor.
Ninety volunteers have put in 1,900 man-hours, Cox said.
They have included Boy Scout troops, Coast Guard personnel and people who just wanted to help out.
“We had people who were just tremendous,” he said.
Cox said one woman in particular stood out to him. She spent hours daily removing demolition debris from the home's rooms.
“Up and down those stairs, out to the Dumpster [and back],” he said.
The project is always looking for more hands, Cox said, adding that construction manager Bill Feeley is in particular need of experienced carpenters and framers.
“The more the merrier. The more people we have with these skills, the quicker this job is going to get done,” Cox said.
Donations are always welcome, he added.
“Every dollar will go toward what we're doing and will be a dollar closer to what we're trying to do,” Cox said.
Fundraisers already have pulled in donations for the Captain Joseph House, the most recent being Readers Theater Plus' “A Thousand Clowns” that contributed $3,100.
Several more are in the works.
The foundation's second annual auction is set for April 5 at C'est Si Bon at 23 Cedar Park Drive in Port Angeles. It will begin at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets will be $85 for general admission and $75 for members of the military.
Tickets haven't been printed yet but can be reserved by phoning Schultz at 360-460-7848 or Sam Coyle at 360-417-0296.
Team Run For Joe will raise funds during the North Olympic Discovery Marathon in Port Angeles on June 1. For details, see runforjoe.com.
At the marathon will be a drawing for a patriotic quilt made by the Sunbonnet Sue Quilt Club. Raffle tickets — $1 each — are available by phoning Schultz or Coyle.
A photo of the quilt can be seen on the Captain Joseph House Foundation Facebook page.
Schultz, 63, suffered a minor stroke in August.
She's doing well now, she said, especially after a follow-up heart repair to prevent future strokes.
“I'm healthy and strong and I'm going to continue leading this effort,” Schultz said, adding she is grateful for the “tremendous support of my board and team.”
Anyone wishing to volunteer for the Captain Joseph House can contact Cox at 360-929-4801.
For more information on the Captain Joseph House and its foundation, visit www.captainjosephhousefoundation.org.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach contributed to this story.