Veteran. A single word that strikes a powerful chord in the population of a grateful nation. We recognize the selfless sacrifices made by our military – in the past, and every single day that goes by. All in the quest for our freedom, safety, and peace. Now, a joint force for good led by Purple Heart Homes and a league of credit unions is saying “Thank you” to veterans in need, with the launch of ‘Operation Home Renovation’.
As every homeowner knows, it is costly and time-consuming to keep up with basic household maintenance. Add to that accessibility issues related to disability and aging, and, if nothing is done, the home soon regresses from haven to hazard zone. For elderly veterans, especially, even simple housekeeping tasks can become daunting. Potentially serious problems are often left untended, because the owner is either without the financial resources and physical capability to tackle the job, or simply doesn’t know where to turn.
Enter the troops
On August 9, 2016, Purple Heart Homes, a national, non-profit, public charity based in Statesville, NC, launched its inaugural Operation Home Renovation campaign; a mission to recruit credit unions across the country to help revitalize homes owned by mostly older veterans. Joining in the cause are the Southeastern Credit Union League, serving 298 credit unions in Florida and Alabama; Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, with 121 credit union members; and the Cornerstone Credit Union League, serving approximately 500 credit unions in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas.
John Gallina and Dale Beatty, cofounders of Purple Heart Homes, are Iraq veterans who were severely wounded in combat, and know, firsthand, the struggles encountered by returning soldiers. Gallina shared, “We were taught to never leave a soldier behind on the battlefield, and we are committed to not leaving them behind at home.”
The number is staggering – more than nine million US military veterans age 65 and older are living in America today. “It is going to take a movement to thank all of them,” said Gallina, “but we’ll do it, remembering their sacrifice by helping renovate veterans’ homes. This is why we are launching this campaign with participating credit unions and their state associations.”
The National Association of Home Builders is also on board. Working directly with participating credit unions, the NAHB provides member building contractors who volunteer as “team captains” for each veteran home renovation project.
Credit unions are renowned for personal involvement in their communities; leading philanthropic pursuits and supporting outstanding achievement. Those taking part in Operation Veteran Home Renovation begin the job by identifying a veteran whose house needs a redo in order for that person to remain living there in comfort and safety. Perhaps a fresh coat of paint, a yard cleanup, or the addition of accessibility features, such as ramps, railings, or grab bars. The credit union then raises funds by engaging the community in support of the project. Most work can be completed by credit union staff and local volunteers in two days or less, at an average cost of $5,000.
One ‘wildly’ popular and profitable fundraising event, hosted by a credit union in Oklahoma City, netted more than $26,000. The proceeds of their Wild West Casino Night covered the renovation costs of four approved veterans’ homes. Dave Willis, Executive VP and CEO of Oklahoma’s Tinker Federal Credit Union, acknowledged, “Veterans that need help don’t self-identify, and usually say ‘someone else needs more help than me.’ So, we worked with the Veterans Corner to locate veterans that meet the criteria developed by the Purple Heart Homes team.”
The 2016 Purple Heart Homes campaign, Operation Veteran Home Renovation, continues until mid-November. So, there are still plenty of opportunities to pledge your time, skills, and funds. Participating leagues and credit unions have until Nov. 12 to complete a project or make a direct donation to Purple Heart Homes.
Learn more about Purple Heart Homes, and how to join the movement to renovate veterans’ homes in your area, at https://purplehearthomesusa.org/