Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘CSX’

Guest blog by Angela Costa, Community Investment Analyst, CSX

As part of CSX’s Pride in Service initiative, which is focused on supporting the military community, veterans and first responders, I’ve been fortunate to volunteer at some really moving events that not only touched my heart, but positively touched the lives of many families. My latest service experience — and one of my favorites to date — was the Operation Homefront Back-to-School Brigade here in my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. This was a special event, not only because of COVID-19 and the new “drive-through” protocols, but because I got to meet some amazing families and volunteers. In fact, I got to sit down with Sarai Pagan, an Operation Homefront volunteer who — along with her seven kids! – have also benefited from the program in the past. I love how she is creating a cycle of service by giving back to others like her. In hearing her story, I learned firsthand what this program means to military moms. Check out our conversation!

When did you learn about Operation Homefront?

My brother is a Marine, and as a military sibling I joined a pen pal program where I met my husband, David, who is in the Navy. As our family grew, we became involved with Operation Homefront when my husband was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. Since then, we’ve lived in various locations including Virginia, Guam and now Jacksonville, where we’ve stayed in touch with Operation Homefront.

Both Angela Costa & Sarai Pagan prepping for military families to receive their school supplies at the 2020 Jacksonville Back-to-School Brigade.

How did Operation Homefront support you and your family?

While stationed in California, we heard about the Holiday Meals for the Military, Operation Homefront’s kits for military families that include everything you need for a holiday dinner. As a young, growing military family, having a meal given to us meant that we could repurpose that money on rent or other bills and still have a wonderful holiday. This served as a huge financial benefit, but it also meant a lot to receive such a thoughtful gift. We also participated in an Operation Homefront Star-Spangled Babies baby shower where we received a rocking chair, which was a great feeling as this was the first one I had for any of my children!

What made you make the transition from benefiting from these incredible programs to volunteering to help other families like yours?

While we were stationed in Virginia, my husband moved up in rank in the Navy, and our family became more financially stable. We wanted to pay forward the support we’ve received and help younger military families that needed it now more than ever. I jumped in full force – I made myself and my family fully available for Operation Homefront for anything they needed, from picking up supplies, to volunteering at events, and even organizing our own events.

What has stood out to you the most, as a volunteer?

While my family and I were on the USS Gerald Ford, I organized and set up the ship’s first-ever Star-Spangled Babies baby shower. Operation Homefront helped contribute to the baby shower in which everyone went home with about $350 worth of items for each of the families participating. These families weren’t expecting anything of this magnitude, and the way Operation Homefront showed up was truly incredible. Every family walked out with items they needed to start their families, including car seats, strollers, and pack ’n plays. They no longer had to worry about how to pay for these items on their own.

How has the need for these services changed or increased due to COVID-19, and how have other military spouses been handling the pandemic?

Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigades help alleviate the anxiety for families struggling to pay for supplies like backpacks, notebooks, etc., for the upcoming school year. It has been devastating to see the pandemic take a toll on military spouses – many of whom lost their jobs and critically need this support. This, plus the uncertainty surrounding school this fall, makes these events even more meaningful this year. I’m also familiar with Operation Homefront’s other services, such as Critical Financial Grants for basic family needs like bills and car repairs. This organization has really supported military families throughout the pandemic.

Sarai and her husband, David at the 2020 Back-to-School Brigade in Jacksonville, Florida.

What advice do you have for other military families who may have similar needs that you did?

As both a past beneficiary family and a current volunteer of Operation Homefront, I’ve learned that the support from this organization is unlike any other. It’s really important that military families, especially young ones, take the help that is given and not be prideful, rather than face the financial and emotional challenges of being a growing military family alone.

Thank you, Sarai, for your insights and for taking the time to share your story. From all of us at CSX, we thank you and your family for serving our country and perpetuating that service through your support of other military families.

Through Pride in Service, our signature community investment initiative supporting military, veterans and first responders, CSX supports Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance grants, Back to School Brigades and Star-Spangled Babies programs. I had no idea when I met Sarai that she or those she knows had benefited from each and every one of these awesome outreach efforts! With organizations like Operation Homefront and community members like Sarai, we can connect our country’s military, veterans and first responders to what they need, when they need it most.

Read Full Post »

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:

Read Full Post »

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:

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: