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Friday, July 18

When Lynch goes home, it'll be to a much bigger place

By Bob Withers | The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Well wishers at Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch's home when she gets there Tuesday might want to watch her facial expressions closely.

She will see - for the first time - a family home that has virtually doubled in size and now features handicap-accessibility.

The expansion and renovation effort, dubbed "Jessi's Home Project," started as a way to allow the recovering soldier to navigate between rooms more easily. It focused on a new bedroom and bath for her and a utility room - all on the first floor.

But the project grew with the flood of donations that poured in from across the country. Officials and family have declined to reveal the amount of donations received as well as how much the renovations cost. The addition has grown to two stories and includes four bedrooms, two bathrooms, the utility room and a family room.

Other improvements:

- The original home's first floor was evened out to allow Lynch to navigate between her new bedroom and the existing kitchen and dining room.

- The house has central air and gas heat for the first time.

- The home's structural defects have been remedied.

- Rooms have been networked for computer use.

- A gully in the front yard was filled in and a semicircular driveway will bring visitors closer to the home.

- A retaining wall now holds back the hillsides beside and behind the expanded home.

The bathtub in Lynch's room is equipped with railings, per instructions by personnel at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who have visited the home to make sure the modifications will meet her needs.

This week, an average of 13 to 15 workers per day were putting the finishing touches on the home and cousin Pam Nicolais was sweeping, sewing and answering the phone.

"I haven't started on the dishes yet," she said.

Will the renovation be finished by Tuesday?

"It had better be finished by Monday," Nicolais said. "We got furniture coming in. We have to spruce it up and get everybody out."