Home Franchise Concepts Volunteer Day: Helping to Bring Severely Injured Veterans Home

For over three years, Budget Blinds® has been the official window coverings supplier for Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), a privately-funded nonprofit organization that builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes for severely injured Veterans. With almost 250 homes completed since 2004, you know HFOT has a sure-fire system in place. Part of that winning infrastructure is hundreds of donors and volunteers, both individuals, and businesses, like Budget Blinds, that provide ongoing support through donated products, services, cash contributions and lots of elbow grease.

Budget Blinds, the parent company, Home Franchise Concepts (HFC), and their long-time manufacturing partner, Springs Window Fashions®, have committed to donating and installing custom faux wood blinds in the homes that HFOT builds across the country.

  • With Budget Blinds’ independent franchise business owners in all 50 states, we have the man (and woman) power to meet this commitment.
  • Every month sees our franchise owners donating time and expertise to precisely measure and professionally install over 15 window treatments in each home.
  • Many also participate in the local Groundbreakings, Community Kick-Off Events, Volunteer Days and Key Ceremonies that are the home-building milestones.

Budget Blinds Home Office staff pitches in on Volunteer Day
A local build was the perfect opportunity for a dozen of our California Home Office executives and staff to get very hands-on by attending the Volunteer Day for Marine Corporal Christopher Van Etten. (His story is below.) Volunteer Day is approximately one month prior to move-in and it’s the day when the landscaping goes in. Trees, flowers, and yards of sod are planted and mountains of mulch are spread. Dirty work, yes, but very rewarding!  Here are some comments on the day from our worthy volunteers:

  • “Thank you HFOT for allowing me to be a part of the recent Volunteer Day. It was so humbling for me to see so many people come together to serve an injured Veteran. I was truly honored to be a part of it. And a huge ‘thank you’ to CPL Van Etten for your service and sacrifice. I hope your new home brings you many years of peace, love, and happiness.”
  • “This day was amazing! It was incredible to see strangers work so hard together to complete this project in such a short amount of time. I enjoyed working on the landscape. I have never done that before and it was fun to see the before and after.”
  • “The most amazing part of these events for me is experiencing, firsthand, the teamwork, camaraderie, and efficiency that take place when dozens of caring and hardworking people come together for a great cause. I accidentally pitched a forkful of mulch in one volunteer’s hair and she just laughed it off and told me to keep up the good work.”

Volunteer Day brings together young and old, experienced and novice, guys and gals, and fellow injured Veterans who may be HFOT home recipients themselves. Veterans have an incredible desire to “pay it forward,” especially to others who have been injured and daily face some of the same challenges. Their heart’s desire is to serve others and being injured does not lessen that drive. Many have said that the gift of the specially adapted, mortgage-free HFOT home has enabled them to become even more proactive in helping others.

Meet Marine Corporal Christopher Van Etten

CPL Van Etten grew up with military parents so serving his country was in his DNA. Proud to serve, he was on his second deployment in Afghanistan in 2012 when, during the rescue of a squad member who had tripped an improvised explosive device (IED), he stepped on a second one. He says, “I could feel my legs but not move them; I looked down and knew that my entire life had just changed.” He lost one leg below the knee and one above the knee. He progressed rapidly through recovery and was walking on prosthetic legs within two months. He shares that a good support system of family and other “wounded warriors” helped.

Dedicated to physical fitness, he hopes to open up a gym where he can help others with physical disabilities to safely get to a more fit lifestyle. “I know when I started there wasn’t anyone around who knew how to work out a double amputee so I had to do a lot of these things on my own. Being able to help other wounded warriors is something that has been a big passion of mine the last few years. I want to help someone to have the opportunities that I have. That’s what I look forward to the most.”

He and his wife, Samantha, are excited about the new home and the opportunities and comfort it will provide. He’ll be able to cook again (something he used to enjoy pre-injury) in the kitchen with its roll-under countertops and stove and pull-down shelves. The open floor plan will accommodate his wheelchair and allow safe and comfortable access throughout the home. He is currently pursuing a business degree and stays active with wheelchair lacrosse, mono-skiing, and motorcycle riding. Starting a family is in their future plans.

His gratefulness for his new home extends to HFOT, its staff members and all the donors and supporters. “Homes for Our Troops is a family; I got to meet a lot of the staff and they’re all just amazing people. The more I know about them the more I am amazed by what they are doing. The one place a person should be comfortable is in the comfort of their own home, and because of HFOT and its supporters, that will be possible for me.”

This is the fourth HFOT home for franchise owners Tony and Kenda Richerson of Budget Blinds serving Temecula. Deployed family members heighten their sensitivity to the sacrifices that Veterans make and they take every opportunity to support the HFOT home builds in their area. Measuring and installing faux wood blinds to beautify the homes and provide light and privacy control is a labor of love.

Listen to CPL Van Etten share his story by clicking here.

Meet Army Sergeant Christopher Tarte

In Afghanistan in 2011 while on a route clearance mission, the vehicle SGT Tarte was riding in struck an IED. The blast threw him into the air; he describes a feeling of weightlessness and slow-motion awareness. He suffered multiple injuries, including shattered legs, pulmonary embolism, vertebrae fractures and Traumatic Brain Injury. His right leg was eventually amputated below the knee. Multiple surgeries and months of rehabilitation brought him to the point where, in 2015, he could run again. He shares, “The physical stuff is easy to deal with. The mental part is the hard stuff because you have to come to grips with having to do things differently now. You have to learn how to walk again; you have to learn how to trust people. It’s a matter of rebuilding who you want to be because you can’t go back to the way you were before.”

SGT Tarte has three young children and spending as much time with them as he’d like is challenging. The new HFOT home will allow him to be a more present dad. “This home will allow us to be the family we want to be without having to worry about what we can and can’t do in the house. I want to adequately take care of my children without hindrances and this specially adapted house from Homes for Our Troops will help me do that.”

SGT Tarte plans to return to school and study woodworking. Hobbies include sitting volleyball, reading, painting, and playing guitar. He said the offer of a home from HFOT made him feel like a Rock Star. “You can’t buy peace of mind. HFOT is like no other organization I’ve seen. When you‘ve got that many people united in what they’re doing, there’s no end to what they can accomplish. It’s just amazing. I would love to continue to work with HFOT to pay it forward.

Lee and Anna Huff, franchise owners of Budget Blinds of West Little Rock, had the honor to outfit SGT Tarte’s home with custom window treatments, including motorized blinds in the master bath to eliminate the need to reach across the tub to adjust the blinds

Hear SGT Tarte share his journey by clicking here.

Giving back in a tangible way
One final quote from Volunteer Day demonstrates not only the corporate support but how individual employees feel about the Homes for Our Troops partnership to assist Veterans and their families with recovery and rebuilding their lives:

“Homes for Our Troops is near and dear to my heart. They are truly a great organization, and I’m so proud that our company has aligned with them for so many years. It was a heartwarming day to see members of the community come together for Corporal Van Etten, and to bond with our team while getting our hands dirty for a good cause.” –Gena Van Horne, Marketing Project Manager, HFC

Before the holidays get too busy, now is a good time to update your own windows with stylish, efficient new window coverings. Budget Blinds offers an extensive collection of window treatments including blinds, shutters, shades, drapes and more. Call 866-879-9730 to schedule a free, in-home consultation or find a Style Consultant near you.

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