Saturday, November 15, 2014 was an eye-opening day for many Budget Blinds® Corporate staff who participated in a Homes For Our Troops(HFOT) Volunteer Day for the first time. Upon arrival at the home site, there were two distinct first impressions:
- The extremely diverse crowd (249 volunteers) from young children to seniors
- The aroma of mountains of compost and mulch
Volunteer Day is a tangible way to say THANK YOU to our U.S. veterans who fought and sacrificed to protect the freedoms we enjoy each day. Volunteer Day is the second major milestone in the process of placing a severely-wounded veteran and his or her family into a new home, specially adapted to meet their unique needs. Homes For Our Troops has been building homes for 10 years and has the process down to a science, as you’ll see.
The Urgent Need
Many veterans are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan with life-altering injuries. The Veteran’s Administration estimates that over 1,900 veterans have suffered injuries such as loss of one or more limbs, varying levels of paralysis, traumatic brain injury, blindness, deafness and severe burns. They are faced with having to relearn skills we take for granted: walking, getting dressed, eating, working and playing. Some are confined to a wheelchair, some use prosthetics to replace lost limbs. Home is no longer a place of comfort, but room after room is filled with barriers that make simple tasks difficult or even impossible.
Each new home is built to accommodate the veteran’s unique situation, and possible home adaptations include open floor plans, keyless entry, roll-in showers, roll-under cooktops, sinks and counters, touchless faucets, pull-down shelving, easy-care window coverings, lift systems, and voice activation controls. Homes are built far beyond the demands of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to ensure maximum comfort and mobility for each veteran.
HFOT believes that these American heroes need and deserve specially adapted homes that allow them to regain their independence. Budget Blinds is one of many corporate sponsors that strongly agree and by contributing products, labor and donations to HFOT, this vitally important mission can continue to grow, year after year. Budget Blinds, in collaboration with springs Window Fashions, is committed to placing faux wood blinds from our Signature Series® brand into 120 homes over the next three years, starting with 11 in 2014 as part of HFOT’s Home for the Holidays campaign.
“Many Hands Make Light Work”
HFOT’s enduring strength is in the network of thousands of individuals, foundations, corporate sponsors and professional tradespeople who donate time, money and products so all homes built can be passed, mortgage-free, to each veteran.
At the start of a new build, HFOT works to rally the local community that the veteran will call home, and create support and excitement for the project, including lining up the Budget Blinds franchisee in the area. Through phone calls, emails and radio campaigns people come forward, out of patriotism, pride, and gratitude, to sign on and the team emerges that will support the process from Groundbreaking to final Key Ceremony. The milestones are:
- Groundbreaking: This is the introduction into the new community with HFOT representatives and the key individuals that enable putting shovel to dirt and getting the official building underway. Locals learn more about HFOT, the veteran who will become their neighbor, and ways they can become involved.
- Volunteer Day: It takes about five months from groundbreaking to move in. As the home nears completion, HFOT schedules the Volunteer Day when volunteers come together to complete the landscaping, do any other necessary tasks like assemble a swing set, and meet the veteran and his or her family.
- Key Ceremony: This is the day the family gets to move into their new home. There is a “formal” key presentation, cutting a yellow ribbon allowing access to the home, and the veteran proudly raises the American flag in the front yard to cheers and tears.
Experiencing Volunteer Day
Volunteer Day was in Murrieta, CA, landscaping the home for Cpl Carlos Garcia. Cpl Garcia lost both his legs in Afghanistan in 2010 in an IED blast. Upon arrival at the house, we joined other excited groups of volunteers, including American Legion Riders, HFOT veterans and family members, The Patriot Tigers (a local high school group), church groups, a Sheriff’s Office team, neighbors, BJ’s Restaurant and other corporate sponsors. There was a noticeable number of fellow veterans who, like Garcia, had lost limbs and were there to offer help and support.
A flag-flying motorcycle motorcade heralded the arrival of Cpl Garcia and he was greeted with applause and cheers. He and his family were all smiles as they were introduced to the crowd and shook hands with many of the volunteers standing close by.
- Patches of sod were carried assembly-line style and placed together like a giant puzzle
- Pickaxe-swinging volunteers dug holes for flowers and trees, planting teams finished up
- Little children worked alongside parents, getting hands, feet, and clothes dirty
- 20-30-40-somethings and seniors were planting, raking, carrying sod, mulch, compost, and water
- The activity gave the impression of a bustling anthill
Miraculously, within two hours, the job was completed. Front and back yards were completely landscaped, watered, trees staked, sidewalks cleared and the mountains of mulch were evenly spread. It was a beautiful sight to behold!
- “It’s overwhelming to see everyone come out from different backgrounds and communities to help one person; all banding together.”
- “I feel inspired. So many people coming together; it’s cool.”
- “I had such a fun time and I can’t wait to do it again.”
- “It feels wonderful. [Budget Blinds] did a job to fulfill needs of people who sacrificed for this country. As a participant, I feel like I did something for the country too.”
- “The day was a great success…a heartfelt and humbling experience.”
- “I’m fulfilled. It made me get into the holiday spirit a little more.”
- “An incredible outpouring of support from fellow wounded veterans.”
- “It’s awesome!”
Volunteers were rewarded with gourmet sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit, homemade cookies and gracious words from Cpl Garcia: “Thank you for coming, it means so much. We’re happy to be part of a community. I hope you’ll come back on [December] 16th for a tour when the house is completed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. My family really appreciates this.”
Cpl Garcia and his family will have their Key Ceremony on December 16 and be in their new home in time for Christmas. They’ll have another new addition as well—“baby” Garcia is due around the first week in December, just in time to move into the new house with his dad, mom and big sister.
The Budget Blinds Commitment to Veterans
Franchise owner Tony Richerson of Budget Blinds serving Temecula, CA, personifies the Budget Blinds commitment to our veterans and will be installing the faux wood blinds just before the move in. This is Tony’s second HFOT home in Murrieta and he shares, “With a few of my family members still deployed, I understand the sacrifices these men and women make to protect our freedom. Any opportunity to show support and gratitude to them is an honor.”
Budget Blinds, its parent company, Home Franchise Concepts, and sister company, Tailored Living®, continue to have an active role in support of veterans. From home improvement shows like George to the Rescue helping to furnish homes for veterans in need, the 2013 Million Dollar Franchise Event assisting veterans to become franchise business owners, and now our newest partnership with HFOT, Budget Blinds expands its commitment to honor our country’s veterans with special thanks for their sacrifice and service.
“Homes For Our Troops perfectly aligns with Budget Blinds’ commitment to honor U.S. military veterans. We are proud to make this contribution to returning soldiers and their families, and to also have our Budget Blinds family be part of the actual building process,” says Todd Jackson, COO at Home Franchise Concepts.
To learn more about Budget Blinds window coverings, including shutters, shades, blinds and drapes go to www.budgetblinds.com to find a Style Consultant near you. Call (866) 879-9730 today to schedule a free, in-home consultation and see how stylish new window treatments can enhance your lifestyle.
To volunteer with Homes For Our Troops and find a project in your area, click here.