WIMAUMA, Fla. (WFLA) – For Jillian Hinton and her two kids, Wednesday rings in a new beginning.
“It is just a feeling, I don’t know how to put it into words,” Hinton said. “I had actually almost a year to think about how I was going to say ‘thank you.’”
This Thanksgiving, The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, an organization named after a New York City firefighter killed on Sept. 11, 2001, will award three mortgage-free homes to three Gold Star families.
Hinton’s family was picked along with families in Lake County and Tennessee.
“There are no words on earth that can actually describe the level of excitement and gratitude I have,” Hinton told News Channel 8.
The gift is bittersweet.
In 2017, Hinton’s husband, U.S. Army Sgt. Terrance Hinton, was killed when the military vehicle he was riding in crashed in Hawaii. He left behind his wife, stepson Christian and daughter Cayleigh.
“This is something that’s so over the top,” Hinton said. “I just choose to believe, and the kids choose to believe, this is the house daddy built.”
The organization collects donations from the public and puts the money into funds for new homes. Over the past several years, the group has awarded new homes to at least 40 Gold Star families.
“It is the most humbling experience possible,” said Chris Brandt, a representative for the organization. “I’m a father of three children and to see the smiles on the children’s faces, specifically, is the most heartwarming thing you could do.”
Hinton understands the magnitude of the gift.
She recently moved her family from Illinois to Hillsborough County and can’t wait for a new start in a brand new home.
“It’s the deepest feeling of gratitude and warmness I’ve ever felt in my life,” she said.
Hinton has seen the exterior of the home, but hasn’t been inside. The unveiling is set for 9 a.m. at the home on Yellow Pine Street.