Cook County veteran gifted new roof from local contractor: 'It was like winning the lottery'

There’s a new roof going up on a house in south suburban Thornton.

Normally, that’s not big news. But under this new roof, a remarkable story played out involving a military veteran with an ill granddaughter who got a helping hand from a local contractor.

Bruce Suggs gets emotional when he talks about what his family is going through. Suggs spent six years in the Air Force, including action in the Gulf War. And then 15 years with the Will County Sheriff’s Office.

Last October, Suggs’ 11-year-old granddaughter Jenesis, who lives with him and his wife, was diagnosed with leukemia and has been undergoing chemotherapy therapy.

At the same time, their beautiful but aging home in Thornton was struggling too, with a leaky roof leading to flooding and freezing temperatures in the winter.

Which prompted Suggs to write a letter to Habitat for Humanity asking for help. 

"We just wanted some aid and assistance, so we could make a nice life for her. For our kids," said Suggs.

On Monday morning his prayers were answered, as a team of workers from Total Roofing and Construction began tearing off the old roof and putting new shingles and gutters on Suggs’ home, a job that would otherwise cost nearly $20,000. 

"Wow. It was like winning the lottery," said Suggs, shaking his head. "It was unbelievable."

The new roof comes courtesy of the Owens Corning Roof Deployment Project, which since 2016 has put new roofs on the homes of 550 military veterans. 

"Whenever Owens Corning comes to us with this opportunity—we do a couple a year for them," said Eric Gess, spokesman for Total Roofing and Construction. "They’ve done over 550–we jump at the chance. And who more deserving to give back to than our veterans who have served our country?"

And the timing couldn’t be better. On Friday, Jenesis returned home after spending two weeks in the hospital receiving chemotherapy. 

"That’s a true testament of the commitment Habitat for Humanity has for veterans. And it’s beautiful and it’s needed," said Suggs. "And I’m sure I can speak on behalf of other vets who have received this service that we are beyond words of gratitude."

Gess said it should take about three days to complete the new roof. 

"We look at it as we are providing the protection for the house so that Bruce and his family can continue to make memories there because that’s what really makes a house a home," Gess said.