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Posts Tagged ‘assistance for veterans’

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many military families. Army Veteran Nicole Walcott and her new business were significantly impacted during this time.

For the past three years, Army veteran Nicole Walcott has been building up her alternative health and wellness business in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The business was born due to a back injury she endured after a Humvee accident as a specialist, while stationed in South Korea. She and her husband, Joshua, had met in basic training, and both were in Korea when the accident occurred. They eventually were stationed in Fayetteville, where both were honorably discharged as service-disabled veterans in 2014.

Joshua became a police officer and Nicole began working in economics, which was her background before entering the service. But after having her two children, she learned that she had degenerative arthritis in her spine, likely the result of the accident. She lived daily with debilitating pain.

She was at a retreat to get yoga teacher certification for first responders when she discovered float therapy.

“I got out of the tank and I told one of the officers who had come with me for the certification ‘I literally was like I have to get this back to Fayetteville. I did research and there was nothing within 90 miles of us and my business brain turns on. As quickly as I could, I got together some of my own capital, I found a private investor and we opened our doors in December of 2017.”

Called Shanti Wellness, Nicole’s business paid for 90 percent of the family’s bills. She was expanding with military contracts and she and her partners planned on adding cryotherapy. But in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused shut-downs of businesses nationwide, especially service-related ones like Shanti Wellness, Nicole’s family was left without the majority of their income.

”Things like this you can’t see coming,” Nicole said. “You can’t prepare for this. We aren’t even three years old. I told my husband I could understand a 30 percent revenue but we were at a 95% revenue drop overnight. It was insane, I couldn’t believe it.”

She read about Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program during a search for grants and loans to help businesses and veterans. She applied for assistance in both April and May. Thanks to generous donors, Operation Homefront was able to help Nicole pay more than $2,100 for food assistance, utilities, and car payments in April. In May, her family received $1,400 for rent assistance.

“We were so thankful because now that those bills were taken care of for April, we didn’t have to worry about how we would pay all these other business bills,” she said. “That’s one of the problems. There’s help for individuals and personal bills, nothing for businesses and business bills and we still have all of that to pay for. Honestly, (Operation Homefront) was the biggest help to us. It was a huge financial burden lifted.”

Nicole said she was worried about being able to keep the utilities on for her business to be able to open in June, if restrictions were lifted. Not having the business is not just a financial burden, but there are all those clients who will be without their pain relief.

The fact that she was able to get the help in funding she needed, spurred her and other small business owners to start a GoFundMe account for owners who could not get help. So far, they have helped raise $500 for two owners. The goal is to make sure all Fayetteville businesses have a shot of staying open, something she sees could be a ripple effect stemming from Operation Homefront helping her business.

“If we survive that’s fantastic,” Nicole said. “But it’s going to be a long road. If we’re the only business standing downtown, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has to make it.”

 


We are grateful to the following partners who support our Critical Financial Assistance program and help military families get through their short-term, financial struggles so they do not become long-term chronic challenges:

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Army veteran and Bronze Star recipient Troy Wesley watched as circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic diminished his family’s income and left him wondering how to stretch the family budget to feed his family of five.

Troy was furloughed from his job as a security guard when the bank where he worked closed its lobby to the public. His wife, LaQuanna, was also furloughed from her job as a police officer in Greenville, Mississippi, because of budget shortfalls after the city’s main business, a casino, was forced to close because of the pandemic.

Troy also had to shutter his barbecue catering business when supplies became unavailable.

The family’s expenses had increased with their three children –a 14-year-old son and 17-year-old twins –home schooling, and Troy stressed about how to stretch his VA disability pay cover all the family’s expenses.

“It was tough times,” he said. “I do everything I can for my family, and it feels bad when I can’t provide.”

In May, Troy applied for Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance (CFA) program, and thanks to generous donors, the family received a $250 gift card to buy food. He felt relieved and thankful.

“I’m grateful for what Operation Homefront has done for me and my family,” he said.

He explained that Operation Homefront (OH) assisted with home-repair expenses three years ago when the family’s home needed a new roof.

Clockwise from bottom left: Troy Wesley; wife LaQuanna; son Tyler Moore, 14; and twins Kaleb and Kalan Lockett, 17.

“My oldest son had passed away, and I was in a dark place at that time,” Troy recalled. “The help from Operation Homefront lifted me.”

Troy joined the Army ROTC when he was in college at Mississippi Valley State University. “A lot of people I admired had served, and I was inspired by the different world they had.”

He served 20 years and worked as a military police commander, earning the rank of major. He was deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2005 in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He earned a Bronze Star for his service there as a commander of soldiers who patrolled 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Troy lives with PTSD and the effects of a leg injury he suffered in Iraq when he was run over by a piece of equipment.

He appreciates Operation Homefront and its donors for honoring and helping service members.

“The help (Operation Homefront) provides is important to my family and all other service members who have served this great country,” he said. “The donors who make this help possible are true patriots.”

 


We are grateful to the following partners who support our Critical Financial Assistance program and help military families get through their short-term, financial struggles so they do not become long-term chronic challenges:

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Four-year-old Jaxon Crouse ran from room to room of his family’s new home pointing out his favorite features.

“Look, the refrigerator has a water thingy!”

“There’s another closet!”

Jaxon, everyone would come to learn, really likes closets.

Jaxon, really likes closets.

Jaxon really likes closets.

He and his family were seeing the house for the first time during Operation Homefront’s “Welcome to the Community” ceremony in Helotes, Texas held on Thursday, May 30, as part of the organization’s Transitional Homes for Community Reintegration program.

As part of the program, the Crouse family—retired Army Sgt. Michael, his wife Michelle, and their three children, Jaxon, daughter Penelope, 6, and newborn son Greyson River—will live in the newly built, rent-free house for two to three years as they work with financial counselors and caseworkers to build savings, reduce debt, and develop a strong transition plan so when they leave the program they can buy their own home.

Operation Homefront launched THCR in August 2018. Made possible by a generous investment from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation and support from The Home Depot Foundation and others, the program was designed as a gateway for stability to help veteran families remain strong, stable and secure as they transition from military service. The program will soon have eight properties in five states.

The THCR program is made possible by a generous investment from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation and support from The Home Depot Foundation and others.

Operation Homefront Chief Operation Officer and retired Brig. Gen. Bob Thomas thanked donors like Centex Homes, Inc. a division of PulteGroup, and spoke of the importance of stable housing for families leaving the military. “Housing is a center of gravity,” he said. “It is an enabler. We want [the families] to get involved in their community and help ease their transition.”

“Housing is a center of gravity”-Bob Thomas, Operation Homefront Chief Operating Officer, Brig. Gen., USAF (Ret.)

Having grown up in a military family, this is Michael’s first house that has not been a rental. He is looking forward to learning more about maintaining the property, paying off debt and adding to their savings. He also will be closer to his job at Wells Fargo, although he does hope to switch careers after getting his bachelor’s degree in environmental science from UTSA. Michelle wants to enroll at UTSA after she gets her associate degree in early childhood education. She has been home-schooling Penelope and Jaxon, but they are now signed up in Northside Independent School District.

Last year, the family found themselves scrambling when an unexpected medical diagnosis forced Michael to retire from the Army after nearly 15 years of service. They were told the separation process from the military would take six to eight months and were shocked when after only four months they received notice around the Christmas holiday in 2018 that Michael would no longer be in the military.

Michelle was pregnant with Greyson and the family was worried and anxious. They did not have savings and had not had the opportunity to line up housing. They found relief through Operation Homefront’s transitional housing programs—first moving into the San Antonio Village and then being accepted into the longer-term THCR.

“It’s really life changing,” Michelle said about the programs Operation Homefront’s donors support. “It’s not just about writing a check. You are really changing our family’s lives for the better. And even setting up our children for success because if we’re successful we pass that on to them. And it’s not just debt. It’s very exciting and very touching to us.”

“You are really changing our family’s lives for the better”-Michelle Crouse

They knew they wanted to come back to the San Antonio area because that is where Michelle was born and raised. Her family attended the ceremony and in true San Antonio fashion, Michelle’s sister Emily brought homemade cookies and their mom, Janie, brought tres leches cake.

Janie and Michelle’s dad Daniel both said they were eager to have their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren closer to them. They live about 15 minutes away from the Helotes house.

“We get to see Greyson as a little baby,” Janie said. “We didn’t see Jaxon or Penelope as newborn babies. I think Penelope was six months and Jaxon maybe three or four months. Now they can have our help and we can babysit.”

“And they can do grandparents day at school,” she added.

Little Greyson and his brother and sister will be able to visit with their grandparents more, which is priceless.

As everyone filtered through the house, Penelope caught her brother’s closet-fever and invited her aunts and uncles into the upstairs room she declared as hers. “Look at this closet it’s so big,” she could be heard telling her family. Both Janie and Michelle’s sister Emily joked that with the spacious kitchen and big backyard, it was now Michelle and Michael’s turn to host the family get-togethers and holiday meals. Michelle and Michael were all on board.

“We’re extremely grateful and happy,” Michael added. “We want to thank Operation Homefront and the Clark Foundation. This is an amazing opportunity for us.”

“We can’t wait for everyone to see us in three years; in two to three years and see everything we accomplished,” Michelle added. “We won’t let you all down.”

Learn more about our Transitional Homes for Community Reintegration programApplications are currently being accepted for a THCR home in Weeki Watchee FL.

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To honor our Nation’s veterans, Operation Homefront would like to share the stories of the veterans who have touched our lives through our programs.  Please join us every day as we feature a new veteran in our #11Days11Stories series leading up to Veterans Day 2019.

Navy veteran Joshua, his wife Sharon, and their beautiful daughter Lily are well on their way to a strong, stable and secure future after service thanks to our partners and our Homes on the Homefront program.

 Joshua Maggi, a Navy Reserve veteran who worked construction as a Seabee in Afghanistan, and his wife, Sharon, were thinking about starting a family a few years ago, but knew their home at the time didn’t provide the best environment for children.

They were living in a 900-square-foot, 1950s home in Pompano Beach Highlands, Florida, where crime rates are higher than the national average. As Joshua described it in a letter to Operation Homefront, the neighborhood was filled with “addicts, drug dealers and prostitutes.”

“It was pretty crazy living there,” said Joshua, who had moved to the property in 2010 and the couple continued living there after marrying in 2014.

Joshua joined the Navy Reserve in 2009, thinking it would help him get hired as a police officer. He was deployed to Afghanistan for 11 months in 2013, where his unit was tasked with building special forces compounds. After returning, he entered the Individual Ready Reserve in 2014, getting out in 2016 as an E-4. He has a 60-percent disability rating from the Veterans Affairs Department for post-traumatic stress disorder and a back injury.

In his desire to keep his family safe, Joshua considered re-deploying, but decided it wasn’t a good idea for him or his family. “I don’t know if I could put my parents through that again,” he said.

Joshua found Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront (HOTH) program and submitted an application. He and Sharon found out in late 2015 they had been matched with a mortgage-free home in West Palm Beach, Florida. One year later, they found out they were pregnant with their first child. Lily was born in September 2017.

The home and the move not only gave Joshua and his wife the peace of mind of living in a safer area, but just as importantly, it allowed them to build a stronger financial footing for parenting. In their first year in the program, they far exceeded the goals set with their Homes on the Homefront financial counseling team, paying off nearly $19,000 in debt, and saving about $40,000. To date, Joshua estimates they have about $100,000 in assets, including a 401(k)-retirement savings plan, college savings fund for their daughter and some investments. Joshua credits his mom and dad, a plumber, with instilling in him a strong work ethic and frugality.

The Maggi family received their deed to the home, free and clear, in summer 2017, sooner than many in the program. The Maggis feel fortunate that their financial situation, made possible by living in a mortgage-free home, enables Sharon to stay home with the baby.

“To pay off that debt, … to be able to save so much was a real big blessing,” he said. “(Operation Homefront) has given us such a tremendous push forward in life, in marriage and well-being that is absolutely unmeasurable.”

There are many families who still need our help. Check out our Current Needs page and you can help us serve America’s military families today.

Operation Homefront is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so they can thrive — not simply struggle to get by — in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. For over fifteen years, we have provided programs that offer: RELIEF (through Critical Financial Assistance and transitional housing programs), RESILIENCY (through permanent housing and caregiver support services) and RECURRING FAMILY SUPPORT programs and services throughout the year that help military families overcome the short-term bumps in the road so they don’t become long-term chronic problems. Please visit us at www.operationhomefront.org to learn more or support our mission.

 

 

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