Oct. 9--For a 10th anniversary, traditional gifts are tin or aluminum -- but for Indiana University and Whirlpool, wood, steel and hard work will be part of a gift the partners will give rather than receive.

It'll be presented to Bob and Alice Wilmoth in the form of a Habitat for Humanity house Saturday morning, before IU's homecoming football game against Rutgers at Memorial Stadium. A familiar face from the Food Network, chef Roshara Sanders, will be celebrating with the family and Habitat workers at the event. Sanders, known as Chef Ro, will be providing her special wings and vanilla cupcakes during the tailgating ahead of the gridiron game.

Food is very personal for Sanders, who many people will recognize as a winner of "Chopped." So is Habitat for Humanity.

The two merged in Sanders' life when she was 14 years old and moved into a Habitat home with her mother, who worked in the food industry.

"My mom worked three jobs almost her entire life," Sanders said. "Thank God she had a food industry job so she could bring food home."

Sanders remembers watching her mother help build their house in Bridgeport, Connecticut. That home provided stability to Sanders -- and it still does today.

Without the stability of that Habitat home, Sanders is certain she would not have been able to excel in school and be able to join the U.S. Army, where she worked as a warehouse supply specialist with the U.S. 395th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It was while she was in the military that she began training as a food supply specialist. Afterward, she attended and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.

The "icing on the cake," for Sanders was when she got out of the Army and came home. "I had someplace to go home as a veteran," she explained. "Habitat gave me a home forever ... that makes my heart cry."

This Veterans Day, Sanders cooked a meal at the James Beard House -- a high honor for any chef. She recalls that she wrote the recipes for the dishes in her mother's Habitat house, cooking and refining the dishes on the Whirlpool stove provided to them by Whirlpool Corp., who has sponsored every IU campus Habitat build in the past decade.

"Food is very personal if I'm cooking," Sanders said.

That personal touch has developed into a relationship with Habitat for Humanity and Whirlpool. Sanders serves as a celebrity ambassador for Habitat for Humanity International, working with Whirlpool Corp.

Sanders will bring a personal touch to Bloomington Thursday through Saturday, when she comes to be a part of the current Habitat for Humanity build that's underway at East 17th Street and North Fee Lane on the Indiana University campus. More than 300 students, faculty and staff from the Kelley Institute for Social Impact, a part of the IU Kelley School of Business, have been working since Oct. 1 to build a two-bedroom, one-bath home for the Wilmoth family.

As the house with autumn yellow siding nears completion, Sanders will be on site, alongside the Wilmoths and the Habitat workers. On Saturday, Sanders will serve tailgate favorites: "Wingman" Dry Rub Spiced Honey Wings and Tye Dye Cupcakes, which kids can decorate with frosting in the colors of IU or Rutgers.

She also will share her story with the Habitat crew, telling them why what they've done is so important: "What you are doing is giving them a lifelong start to better living."

Then early on Sunday, the Habitat home slowly will be towed from the field where it was built to its new home at the corner of West 15th Street and North Lindbergh Drive, where the Wilmoths can begin that better life.

Contact Carol Kugler at 812-331-4359, ckugler@heraldt.com or @ckugler on Twitter.

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