Massive crew of volunteers renovates home for single mom Navy veteran

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

Written by Gordon Rago, Staff writer

The Virginian Pilot

Jun 4, 2019

A little after 9 a.m. Tuesday, Alexandra Serrano found yet another reason to jump for joy.

The home she was helping renovate on Keats Street would be getting a new washer and dryer.

Well, new-ish. The appliances had been recently donated to the Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads. They were the latest on a very long list of materials — 510 items from ceiling fans to new hardwood floors to paint — used to completely redo the three bedroom ranch-style home.

Roughly 150 volunteers had descended to help out.
Brandi and her son walk into the newly renovated home for the first time.

For the last eight years, Brandi Jones has called the place home. A single mom and Navy veteran, Jones, 38, said she moved there with her son in 2011 after their apartment in Norfolk was robbed. Jones and her then-four year old were held at gunpoint and locked inside a bathroom.

"It was my ultimate goal to get my son out of a bad situation," Jones said. She spent several months working to build up her credit while looking at houses in the area. She now works as a manager at Portfolio Recovery Associates, a bill collection agency in Norfolk. None appealed to her — until she and her son Deon came across the Keats Street listing and went to take a first look.

"Before I could even stop, my son was out of the car and in the backyard," Jones said. 

But the home built in 1996 needed work. Last year, by happenstance, Jones was leaving a nearby Walmart and noticed the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2498 had a table outside. One man, Gary Dunbar, was wearing a hat from the Navy seabees, the same construction battalion she was in for three years.