Recognizing the remodeling industry's generous spirit in updating homes for America's veterans, the organization Purple Heart Homes is working to expand its presence around the country. Founded in 2008 by two combat-wounded Iraq veterans, Purple Heart Homes (PHH) announced earlier this year its intention to form PHH chapters to allow communities around the country to serve deserving veterans in their areas.
PHH founders John Gallina and Dale Beatty have been testing the chapter model in which a PHH chapter will work with veterans in their local communities to identify work that needs to be done, raise the necessary funds, acquire permits, and locate volunteers to perform the work. PHH projects will vary by the needs of the veteran, typically including widening doorways, remodeling bathrooms, building ramps, and installing railings.
Gallina, executive director of the organization, has a construction background and manages several PHH projects. He says that he often sees veterans helping veterans when it comes to volunteering time and talent. "We are excited to roll out PHH Chapters to provide needed, simple housing solutions," he says. "The beauty of it is that retired veterans living in a community can help veterans needing a solution by working together to help them safely age in place."
Wheelchair-bound World War II veteran Wesley Hamilton was the recipient of one PHH project. Though Hamilton already had a ramp off the porch of his home, when he received an electric wheelchair he worried about using the ramp because it had no railing. The PHH pilot chapter in the Golden Corner of South Carolina took on the project, installing a railing and raising the floor of the porch to be level with Hamilton's front door. Additional volunteer funding and service came in when the team discovered that Hamilton's air conditioner wasn't working. A local specialist donated and installed a new system using a total of 20 hours of volunteer labor. "These changes let me use my electric wheelchair to get outside, and the A/C allows me to be more comfortable and sleep all night," Hamilton says.
Golden Corner chapter president Larry Druffel says that he was proud to be of service. "There are few experiences that compare with working side by side with fellow veterans of all services on behalf of another veteran," Druffel says. "It's rewarding and gratifying."
Beyond Ramps & Railings
As veterans themselves, Gallina and Beatty say they were grateful to be welcomed home after their military service, but found that Americans aren't always as supportive of older veterans. This prompted the initial creation of PHH to assist older vets, but the organization has further expanded to provide opportunities for veterans in all situations.
"In addition to the Veterans Aging in Place program, we also offer a Veterans Home Ownership Program where we take foreclosed homes and renovate them for younger veterans," says PHH northeast regional director Vicki Thomas. "Many veterans have concerns beyond what you hear from the VA, and many would never dream of homeownership."
To help solve that problem, PHH renovates a home, then the veteran pays on a mortgage of 50% of the home's market value. "In 10 to 15 years, they'll own that home free and clear. We then take that money and use it for the Aging in Place program. That way, the older veterans don't pay for any of the renovations."
PHH hopes that forming chapters will continue to develop its presence around the country, helping more and more veterans along the way. For additional information on how to start or connect with a chapter, volunteer, or find out how a veteran can apply for assistance, visit purplehearthomesusa.org.