Habitat house in Basalt will help family out of dire straits
Assaf Dory has thought numerous times in the past that he’s seen light at the end of the tunnel while battling back from the loss of a leg in the line of duty as a sheriff’s deputy in Florida.
But the medical problems from the amputation and the financial toll associated with his care turned that light into a train speeding head-on toward the family.
Assaf is convinced the family’s fortunes have changed, thanks to the generosity of a handful of friends and a bevy of strangers in the Roaring Fork Valley. Dory, his wife, Sigal Weinfeld-Dory, and their children Moshe Weinfeld, Galit Weinfeld, Raam Weinfeld and Mechal Dory, were selected to be the recipients of the first Habitat for Humanity house to be built in Basalt and the 20th to be built in the Roaring Fork and Lower Colorado valleys. A committee appointed by Basalt town government made the selection with input from Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork.
Assaf and Sigal said they almost couldn’t believe it when they learned they were selected in late February.
“This is the first time we can say the light at the end of the tunnel is actually a light and not a train,” Assaf said.
Leg shattered twice while on job
Assaf is a tough guy and not used to seeking help. He served in the Israeli military and, in the U.S., sought a career in law enforcement. While working for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Largo, Florida, on Dec. 15, 2001, he suffered a shattered leg while on foot pursuit of a child that was shooting at cars. He scaled an 11-foot fence and suffered the injury while jumping down, he said.
“I fought to get back to work,” Assaf said.
After four surgeries and intensive physical therapy in Israel, he made it back to the department. After two years back on the force, he shattered his leg again in 2004 while helping lead a training exercise.
After multiple surgeries, he still had a non-functioning leg and eventually lost his job. His right leg was ultimately amputated, and more of the leg had to be removed later because of complications.
“By 2011, we lost everything,” Assaf said.
Sigal had been a real estate investor and acupuncture physician before their circumstances required her to stop work to help care for her husband. It was a necessary step but further strained their finances.
Even with workers’ compensation, the medical costs and loss of income were a tough one-two punch. Assaf and Sigal have supportive families but are reluctant to ask for ongoing aid.
“We went through a huge chunk of both of our parents’ retirements,” Sigal said.
In 2011, the heat and humidity of Florida became unbearable for Assaf’s injured leg, so the family packed up a vehicle and prepared for a cross-country trip to relocate in Oregon, where Sigal had roots. Friends in Aspen urged them to swing by for a visit on the way west. The family fell in love with the Roaring Fork Valley and decided to stay. Assaf said the treatment they have received is unbelievable. He and Sigal were shopping at City Market in El Jebel less than a month after they moved to the valley when a man asked how Assaf had lost his leg. They chatted, and the man departed. When Assaf and Sigal checked out, they found the stranger had already paid for their groceries.
Wary of aid
The Dory family first lived in Woody Creek and is currently renting a house in Missouri Heights that is somewhat accommodating to Assaf’s needs while using crutches or a wheelchair, but their place is expensive and is going on the market this spring. They were convinced in the fall that their time was up in the Roaring Fork Valley.
That’s where the hospitality factor kicked in again. Assaf is attending Colorado Mountain College to get a degree. He has prior college credits but hadn’t attained a degree. Academic adviser Craig Farnum learned of the family’s plight and told Assaf in the summer about Habitat for Humanity’s mission of building houses for families facing some special circumstances. Dory wasn’t interested.
“I always try to fight for myself,” he said.
Farnum “nagged” him again in October to check into Habitat For Humanity. Assaf and Sigal looked into it and liked what they saw.
“It’s not a handout. It’s a hand up,” Assaf said. “It’s not like, ‘Here you go, goodbye.’”
They will pay a mortgage adjusted for their income. The family will put sweat equity into the construction. Sigal and their older children, whose ages range between 16 and 21, will put in labor. Assaf will work at the Habitat ReStores in Glenwood Springs and the one opening in Basalt.
Habitat’s Roaring Fork chapter is preparing projects in Carbondale and Basalt. The Carbondale site didn’t work for Assaf’s special needs, said Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork President Scott Gilbert. A selection committee for the Basalt site interviewed the family earlier this winter. Assaf said he was more nervous when facing the committee than any of the multiple times he was shot at. The stakes, he said, were enormous.
The Dory family learned three weeks ago they were selected.
“It gives us hope after so long of not knowing how the (situation) is going to end,” Sigal said.
Team effort to build house
The town of Basalt teamed with Habitat for the project. The town donated a vacant lot on Homestead Drive, where a small community garden was located behind the Cottle Carr Yaw Architects building. Habitat will harness discounted and volunteer labor as well as donated and reduced-price supplies to build the 1,575-square-foot house plus a garage. It is two stories with three bedrooms and 2½ bathrooms.
Mary Holley of MA2 Architects is designing the house. Jack Albright of Albright and Associates is doing the engineering. Terrain Land Architects is handling the outdoor work. All three companies are from Basalt.
A groundbreaking will be held at the site at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The goal is to have the Dory family moved in by about this time next year, Gilbert said.
Three of the children will be living in the house when they move in. Moshe is a full-time student at Colorado Mountain College majoring in computer science. Raam, an aspiring actor, is at Bridges High School and also earning college credits.
Mechal loves attending kindergarten at Basalt Elementary School.
Galit is a full-time student at the University of Colorado at Boulder and will likely be home for summers.
Assaf said the Basalt site is ideal. He is an avid cyclist, using his powerful shoulders and arms to propel himself. He looks forward to riding up the Fryingpan Valley nearly outside his door.
But it’s the prospect of a shorter trip from their home to Basalt Elementary School that thrills him even more.
“I plan to be able to walk Mechal to school someday,” Assaf said.
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has tested positive for the coronavirus. Polis and his partner, Marlon Reis, both have COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, the governor said in a statement Saturday night.