September was an exciting month for Budget Blinds® and Homes For Our Troops (HFOT) as three severely injured Veterans received the keys to their mortgage-free, specially adapted HFOT homes on September 25th. Two homes in California and one in New Hampshire made it a coast-to-coast experience! Since 2014 when Budget Blinds became a corporate sponsor of HFOT, our nationwide franchise owners have donated time and expertise to install custom faux wood blinds in every HFOT home built, supported by our manufacturing partner, Springs Window Fashions, who donates the blinds. Since 2004, HFOT has been built and donated approximately 322 homes and Budget Blinds has provided window coverings for close to half of those homes.
Milestones in the home building process: Ground-breaking ceremony, Volunteer Day putting in the landscaping, and flag raising and ribbon cutting on Key Ceremony home presentation day
Homes for a lifetime
HFOT’s mission is to build and donate specially adapted custom homes nationwide for severely injured post-9/11 Veterans to enable them to rebuild their lives. With over 40 special adaptations, these homes help to restore freedom and independence lost due to severe, life-altering injuries received while serving in the Armed Forces. The homes are customized to a Veteran’s unique needs due to injuries such as multiple amputations, full or partial paralysis, burns, loss of vision or hearing, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. Favorite adaptations include automatic doors, wider doorways and hallways, accessible appliances and cabinets in the kitchen, and the roll-in shower and therapy tub.
360-degree wheelchair access to every part of the home and garage opens up a whole new world of independence (pictured: motorized blinds in the master bath)
The Budget Blinds difference
Before Budget Blinds became the sole window covering provider for HFOT, the homes had bare windows. Executive Director and retired 31-year Army veteran, Bill Ivey, shares how the beautiful, custom window blinds became the icing on the cake! “When we first started building these homes, we weren’t providing them with blinds. Most of the guys and girls we built for are combat arms types of folks...infantrymen, EOD, ordnance disposal, tankers, scouts, artilleryman…and we don’t think about putting blinds on windows. We kind of like having the windows open, you have better observation and field of fire because you can see what’s going on around you out there. But most of us marry up and the wives of our veterans pointed out that it’s a great house and we’re very thankful, but it’s kind of like moving into quarters again on an Army or Marine base. You’re hanging sheets and poncho liners so you can have a little bit of privacy. So they suggested we get some blinds up. Budget Blinds stepped up about that time and did a super job. So, we really appreciate that Budget Blinds not only raises money for us, but they provide the blinds for our homes!”
Beautiful faux wood blinds enhance every room with light and privacy control and classic styling to complement any décor
The Budget Blinds commitment and partnership is only possible because of the amazing franchise owners who give time and expertise to ensure that every HFOT home has professionally installed custom blinds, including motorized blinds in the master bath for added safety in the tub. This month’s Key Ceremonies had a singular event in New Hampshire for Army SGT Brandon Korona, and a dual ceremony in California for new next-door neighbors, Marine CPL Kionte Storey and Marine 1st SGT Ben Holmes. (Their stories are below)
For franchise owners Adam Berryman and Lloyd and Angela Biggs of Budget Blinds of North County San Diego, these homes were their fourth and fifth HFOT homes, awarded the same day in their territory in California. Their team was ready and willing to measure and install the blinds for both Veterans, and their precise and professional measuring and installation services will ensure years of functionality and convenience for the families. Lloyd Biggs shares, “These men and women volunteer for service in a time of war and, in some cases, end up with devastating physical and psychological injuries. While they can never be repaid, building and outfitting these amazing, beautiful homes for these heroes is a small token of our nation’s gratitude for their service and sacrifice. I am a retired Marine; Adam’s family served in the Navy. We are so very honored and humbled to play the small part we do to support the Homes for Our Troops organization.”
Now, meet the real stars …
Meet Marine Corporal Kionte Storey
Marine Cpl Kionte Storey wanted to travel and explore more of life than Stockton, CA, and joined the Marines shortly after high school. Serving was fulfilling and he loved the brotherhood and camaraderie of his fellow Marines. In 2010 on his second deployment to Afghanistan, he was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol and lost his right leg. Recovery and coming to terms with this new life was difficult and he struggled with depression which he says, “Wasn’t me.” Sports became his focus and it proved both healthy and emotionally therapeutic as he pushed himself with running, hiking, rowing, and weightlifting. He became an avid mountain climber and conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro, completed the Marine Corps marathon and several half marathons for Team HFOT, and competed in track and field events during the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics Nationals. He hopes his achievements will inspire and motivate others. “Anything is possible. Just because you’re injured, your life does not have to stop,” he says.
Limited wheelchair access in his home has been an ongoing challenge, especially in the bathroom where the bathtub has occasioned repeated falls. Kionte is looking forward to his specially adapted home in Escondido, CA, that gives barrier-free access to every area. He’s grateful to HFOT’s supporters for giving him a second chance at living an independent lifestyle and shares, “HFOT is a wonderful organization and I’m honored to be a part of what feels like family. They’ve given me so much, especially with the home and the ability to be able to do a lot of things without fear. Like the transition in and out of tubs, that’s my big one, at least. The amenities that they provide and the accessibilities that are there will make life just a little bit easier.”
Kionte with fellow members of Team HFOT and with, Koja, his six-year-old service dog who’s been a best friend since he was two months old
Click here to hear more of Kionte’s experiences.
Meet Marine First Sergeant Ben Holmes
Marine First Sergeant Ben Holmes joined the Marines right out of high school in 1995 and served several deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004 on his second deployment to Iraq, he sustained nerve damage in his right arm, and in 2010 on the last day of the last mission in Afghanistan, his vehicle struck an IED, and he suffered a shattered right ankle and broken pelvis. A year of numerous surgeries finally culminated in the amputation of his right leg and medical retirement from active service.
Ben and his wife, Diana, have four children, the oldest a college graduate. Ben is a substitute teacher and pursuing a doctorate at the City University of Seattle, planning to teach American history. A native Texan, he chose Escondido, CA, as their forever home for the warm climate and closeness of family and the VA. He says, “No words can capture how much it means to me and to my family; because of you it’s going to be okay. I am determined to repay the kindness and generosity my family has received by making a positive impact on the lives of others. I look forward to the possibilities!” The mortgage-free, specially adapted home will enable him to be a full-time student, freeing up evenings and weekends to be with his family and coach youth sports. He’s excited about the new home that will allow him to take care of his kids with freedom of mobility and safety, a sentiment Diana shares, “I’m looking forward to an open floor plan so when he’s in his wheelchair, we can all be around him. To the supporters of HFOT I would say thank you for this next chapter of our lives.”
Volunteer Day where Marine 1st SGT Ben Holmes (far right, front) added sweat equity along with many volunteers to get the landscaping in as the final step before his new home was awarded
Hear more of Ben and Diana’s journey by clicking here.
Meet Army Sergeant Brandon Korona
Army SGT Brandon Korona transitioned from a civilian job to the Army seeking a greater purpose for his life. This dream was disrupted in 2013 on his first deployment to Afghanistan when an IED struck the vehicle he was in, resulting in a broken right ankle as well as every bone below the knee in his left leg. He fought to keep his leg with four years of surgeries and incredible pain and finally made the decision of amputation. He became the second person, and the first Veteran, to receive an experimental procedure called an Ewing Amputation which allows him to control a robotic prosthetic with his brain, enabling him to perform complex actions and to feel sensations in the phantom leg. He says, "It feels like it should feel. It's pretty cool."
Supported by his wife, Chelsea, and his mom whom he says, “Would kill me if I just gave up and didn’t keep pushing on,” his life is full. He and Chelsea are new parents, they’ve opened a small business, he has a master’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University, works at BAE Systems as a subcontracts administrator senior, and plays football on the Wounded Warriors team. But in a conventional home, he faces extreme challenges every day. Brandon says the specially adapted HFOT home provides him with everything he needs for comfort and wheelchair access throughout, creating a safe and stable environment to raise their son. As many HFOT Veterans before him, he is excited about the roll-in shower and has a unique take on it: “The shower is gigantic, and I’ve made the joke to friends and family that it’s like a party shower.” 😊
Brandon feels there is no way to thank the HFOT donors and supporters for what they have done for him and fellow Veterans. “It’s unbelievable that there are actually people who are willing to give a Veteran that’s been wounded in action a home that they can live in mortgage free. That’s exactly what they need to live their life to the fullest. I am so grateful for the support I have had past and present. I am living my life for more than just myself; I live my life with meaning.”
The future begins now for Brandon and Chelsea, with the ribbon cutting to enter their new home in Derry at the Key Ceremony with Bill Ivey, Executive Director of HFOT
For Mark Yuska, franchise owner of Budget Blinds of Derry/Windham, this is his first HFOT home and when informed of the build in his area he responded, “I’m in!” His team donated time and expertise to measure and install custom faux wood blinds throughout the home for Brandon and his family. Giving back is at the heart of the Budget Blinds/Homes For Our Troops partnership, and Mark shares, “It felt good to be able to give back in this way, to someone who has given so much for our freedom. My install helper willingly donated his time to this project as well.”
Hear more of their story directly from Brandon and Chelsea by clicking here.
Window blinds are just the beginning
Window blinds are one of the most popular window treatments thanks to their durability, versatility, and range of styles. They are available in a number of different materials, such as wood, vinyl, aluminum, and composites, including numerous finishes and colors to coordinate with any décor. Our custom window blinds pair perfectly with curtains, drapes, and valances to create exactly the look and feel you want for your windows. Blinds provide a classic and beautiful look for your home, enhancing privacy, energy efficiency, and the ultimate in convenience with motorized window coverings powered by Somfy®, a world leader in innovative home automation.
Adding decorative sheer drapery panels adds softness, just made for dreaming, to this blue and white bedroom
With the holidays right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to call 866-525-8054 or go online to www.budgetblinds.com to schedule a free, in-home or virtual* consultation to find your local Design Consultant and talk about how new custom window blinds could refresh your spaces.
- To make a donation to HFOT, visit We Proudly Support Our Troops.
- Read the latest HFOT September 2021 Foundations newsletter here—20 years Later: Remembering 9/11
- Take a virtual 360-degree home tour here just as you would an actual tour at a Key Ceremony and experience how these amazing homes literally change lives.
*Virtual consultations may not be available at every location