Journal Inquirer

Sept. 30, 2016

HEBRON — Klaus Larsen Roofing launched a civic engagement program almost by accident. While the company was building a new roof for a soldier at no cost, a larger charity began to develop.

The program, the Santa Klaus Project, is aimed to provide a free roof restoration to one veteran a month. Soon, non-service members will also be considered, Mark Negron, a marketing manager for Klaus Larsen LLC, said.

On Sept. 16, the first roof was completed and Sgt. 1st Class Dave Colafati was welcomed home from a nine-month deployment in Kuwait. A barbeque followed at Colafati’s Cheshire home with local vendors providing food and beverages.

Larsen’s company, located at 61 L Main St., jumped at the chance to help Colafati and his family after learning he was returning to a deteriorated roof from his third tour in the Middle East, Negron said.

“Dave is a very humble guy,” he said. “He has sacrificed a lot for his country.”

As a company leader, Colafati was someone his contemporaries could converse with during difficult circumstances. Negron said Colafati also endured many casualties during his second deployment in Afghanistan, including suicide among close friends.

Relieving soldiers’ domestic burdens has become the theme of the Santa Klaus project, as it seeks to help solders return to their civilian lives, he said.

“When soldiers come home it’s a very tough process reintegrating,” he said. “There’s a lot more we can do to thank them for the very real sacrifices they have made for us to live in a free society.”

Colafati, who came home to his 16-year-old son, Tristan, and ex-wife, Melody, said it was humbling that somebody decided he deserved an offer this significant.

While purchasing his home in 2011, Colafati was told by an inspector he would need a new roof in five years. Almost five years to the day, Colafati began conversing with Negron about his candidacy for a free roof.

“It was an enormous weight lifted both financial and anxiety wise,” Colafati said. “I almost forget there are people who care so much about service members.”

After two tours in Afghanistan and one in Kuwait, Colafati has served 18 years in the Army. Colafati said he will serve two more years and is “more than likely” done serving in combat.

“To be a part of this project is very humbling,” he said. “I’m definitely happy to have received it, but the gratitude I have towards Klaus and everyone else for what they’ve done is amazing.”

Larsen has recently teamed with the Klingberg Family Center in New Britain to provide deserving families a new roof each month. Founded in 1903, the nonprofit group shares Larsen’s dedication to promote communities by strengthening families.

World War II veteran Clayton Chalfant, 92, of Westport, and his wife of 69 years will receive the Santa Klaus Project’s next free installation. Living with aid from the Veterans Administration, the Chalfants’ 20-year-old roof is crumbling at a time of financial difficulty.

Chalfant’s granddaughter nominated her grandfather who is a decorated member of the air battalion, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Negron said the project is collaborating with the town of Westport to unveil the roof at an informal gathering around Veterans Day.

The roofing company has paid for each donation thus far, and is working to secure corporate sponsorship to support its growth. Negron said at least $2,000 has been donated for materials at the Chalfant home.

Once the financial support develops, the group will become a 501c charity. A nomination board and local fundraisers will be organized to further their efforts, he said.