Alton Stewart of Independence Hill Baptist Church clears the first lot.
Statistics representing the number of American men and women killed or wounded in the line of duty show the extent of loss in war, but the numbers don’t tell the veteran’s stories. For John Gallina and Dale Beatty, founders of Purple Heart Homes, the numbers hit home in 2004 when they were serving in Iraq. Both encountered two mines while on patrol, and were seriously injured. Beatty lost both legs from the knee down. Upon returning from Iraq, Beatty was the recipient of Fisher House Charities.
“When we arrived home he [Beatty] was the beneficiary of Fisher House Charities and in the process we really saw the goodwill that came out both through the Fisher House and through our local community as they assisted him building a house,” said Gallina. “But there was a great focus in serving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. There wasn’t a focus on helping older vets … we decided to start Purple Heart Homes, which focuses on assisting all veterans with their housing needs.”
Purple Heart Homes provides assistance for all generation veterans. The founders recognized that not all injuries occur right away on the battlefield. Some veterans sustain injuries long after they return home, such as diabetes, uropathy and post-traumatic stress disorder. These injuries not only damage their bodies, but their lifestyles and financial situations. The problems can wreak havoc on a veteran’s credit in the form of medical bills and other expenses that make it hard or nearly impossible to own their own home. Both Gallina and Beatty noticed older veterans were not receiving assistance with these issues because their war was no longer in the news.
“Part of Purple Heart Homes’ Mission is to help the public see that all veterans are equal,” said Gallina. “All disabled veterans are the same. We have all served our country, we all have needs, and they are ongoing.”
In recognition of these needs, Purple Heart Homes joined five other charities to form a loose association named 555 Charity. The focus of this collaboration is to build five homes for five veterans in Denver, N.C. Each of these charities has the same passion and vision to help veterans and consolidated resources to get the job done. Projects like this allow the community to see what the veterans need. It gives individuals a vehicle to volunteer or donate.
Purple Heart Homes know veterans who need help and understand their housing needs. The Patriot Charities and Military Family Lifestyle Charitable Foundation are two of the charities that work with Purple Heart Homes regularly. The Patriot Charities held several fundraisers to fund the first home, according to Dana Bradley, president of The Patriot Charities. Independence Hill Baptist church donated, through their program Hearts and Hammers, the land for these five properties.
“Any one of the charities would have difficulty performing the overwhelming work it takes to work with the veterans’ health care, integration in the community, and raise the funds to help with the housing,” said Rick Cantwell of Military Family Lifestyle Charitable Foundation.
The work the charities are involved with is more important than ever due to a growing veteran population. Charlotte, N.C., and surrounding cities such as Denver, N.C., have 50,000 veterans and will have 7,000 more in the next 18 months. Needs of the veterans as they move into these areas include health care, jobs, training and housing. It can be a challenge for veterans to find assistance, according to Cantwell.
“There are so many different charities it is sometimes difficult for veterans to know where to turn to for help. What we have done in Charlotte is get the charities together to take on missions like this one that 555 Charity is going to do,” said Cantwell.
555 Charity has already gone to work for one veteran, Sgt. Jason Hyde. The first step was to raise money for the first home. Purple Heart Homes and each of the four other charities reached out to their corporate sponsors, such as the Carlyle Group, Bank of America and Wells Fargo for monetary donations and volunteers. Another group, Doosan Portable Power, learned about Purple Heart Homes and 555 Charity and wanted to help any way possible.
Amy Meadows, Doosan Portable Power marketing communications specialist, met one of the co-founders of the Purple Heart Homes, Dale Beatty, during the balloon festival this past October. During their conversation, she learned about his organization and what it did for disabled veterans. Since her husband also is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, Meadows felt compelled to find a way to help this cause. Doug Dennington, customer service representative of Doosan Portable Power, is a veteran from Desert Storm and agreed that the Doosan Portable Power team should become involved in the Purple Heart Homes effort.
After sufficient funds were raised by the groups, construction of the first Denver, N.C., home began.
“Our team began work by sweeping and scraping the floors and walls of the entire house to remove the sheet rock sanding particles and paste. Next, we painted the entire upstairs with primer. During the afternoon, our team primed the downstairs walls and helped to hang siding on the outside of the house,” said Meadows. “We are proud to say Doosan Portable Power employees took time to give back to those who have given so much for our country.”
One of the biggest challenges building the home was scheduling the volunteers, and working around holidays, vacations and job schedules. However, the project created volunteer opportunities for those that could not donate money but could donate their time and services. Another challenge was building awareness for the first project.
Upon completion of the home, Sergeant Hyde will receive a mortgage for 50 percent of the value of the home. The mortgage he pays will then go toward the construction of the next home. After five years, the full equity of the home will become available to him. This will provide each veteran not only a home, but also the opportunity to build up their financial situation and credit.
“For us it’s been a terrific experience assisting a veteran that has worked really hard for our freedom, and we are giving him the opportunity to own a very nice home and start a new chapter of life for him and his family,” said Bradley.
For more information on 555 Charity, visit www.555charity.org.
For more information on Purple Heart Homes, visit www.purplehearthomesusa.org.
For more information on The Patriot Charities visit www.patriotcharities.org, call 704/496-2794 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Military Family Lifestyle Charitable Foundation visit http://www.mflcf.org/.