Local nonprofit fundraising for tiny-house village for vets

Published 12:05 am Monday, December 5, 2016

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to included criminal charges on Ken Lagonia’s record.

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A charity established this year hopes to raise significant sums of money to build a veterans village in the Salisbury area that consists entirely of tiny homes.

Named Training, Educating and Motivating, the nonprofit received its charity designation in March. So far, founders Ken Lagonia and Sonya White say they’ve spent roughly $100,000 of their own money to find housing and jobs for veterans and ex-offenders. Lagonia said the nonprofit guarantees an interview after a 90-day internship program.

Several years ago, Lagonia was involved in a “classic ponzi scheme,” according to 2009 documents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. In 2009, Mooresville resident Kenneth Lagonia pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection to a real estate investment scheme, according to court documents. The scheme involved N.J. Affordable Homes Corp. and its subsidiaries. Lagonia was president of Quality Homes Are Us, one of the subsidiaries.

Now, Lagonia and White are raising money to establish a veterans village composed of tiny homes in Rowan County. The village would be for veterans who are currently homeless, Lagonia said. Some of the tiny homes would be as small as 100 square feet. The largest would be just over 500 square feet.

For Lagonia, the nonprofit’s effort is about “paying it back.”

“We close our doors at night and don’t think about anybody else,” he said. “We think of a homeless person as a bum. They had a gun in their hand and were fighting for our country.”

Lagonia said the nonprofit decided to build tiny homes instead of apartments because of construction-related cost.

In addition the the miniature houses, Training Education and Motivating aims to build a swimming pool, general store and activities cabin. For the veterans village, Langonia said his charity needs to raise $100,000 — the same amount that he and White say they’ve spent of their own money — for “soft costs” such as engineering.

Lagonia and White said they met with the Salisbury VA last week and received a positive reception to the idea. When asked how they’d deal with any code-related restrictions on buildings the size of tiny homes, Lagonia said a partnership with the Salisbury VA would eliminate any obstacles.

It’s unclear how much the nonprofit will need after “soft costs.” Overall, Langonia said the charity would need to raise $823,000 in a year. However, that includes putting 100 people through their jobs training program, paying the participants a salary and Langonia and Sonya White taking a $40,000 salary for themselves.

White said she’s a nurse by trade. Lagonia no longer works — he’s focused fully on the charity — but said he was previously a forensic accountant.

For more information about the tiny homes village or Training Educating and Motivating, visit trainingeducatingandmotivating.com or call 704-314-6286.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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