The need by severely injured service members for adapted minivans to help them lead independent lives did not decrease during the pandemic. The continued to rise, even as fundraising events came to a grinding halt.
“While fundraisers were at a record low, inquiries and approved applications for accessible van grants were at a record high,” said Laurie Hollander, cofounder of Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH). “We have now awarded 165 grants since fall 2020. including a Navy nuclear engineer here in Connecticut.”
Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH), based in Easton, Conn., is a nonprofit that awards adaptive minivans to allow injured military service members the freedom to drive. Founded by Hollander and Marybeth Vandergrift in 2009, the nonprofit helps wounded veterans from the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The HOMH Board of Directors is comprised of veterans, educators, philanthropists, and business executives who came together with the common goal of making a difference in the lives of the most severely wounded and injured service men and women
The mission statement is: “Help Our Military Heroes is dedicated to delivering adaptive minivans to our wounded, injured, and ill military heroes.”
Some of the service members suffered traumatic injuries, including head, neck, nervous system, and spinal cord injuries. The road to recovery can be painful, long, and so hard to deal with for them and their families. Many of them have trouble finding meaningful employment, housing, and transportation.
An adaptive minivan that’s designed for an individual’s needs can help him or her gain a sense of independence and self confidence as they get their lives back together, but the cost can be prohibitive. The HOMH program is donation-driven, and 100% of the public donations to date went toward purchasing and retrofitting 165 minivans for active duty service members and veterans who require ramp entry, modified minivans due to their wounds, injuries, and illnesses.
Donations from the public have been generous. According to HOMH tax records for 2019, they received $316,606 in donations in 2018 and $459,352 in 2019, which shows a generous increase in public donations.
HOMH serves veterans nationwide and has helped hundreds of U.S. service members for over a decade. Their testimonials are posted on the website and all of them are moving and inspirational. Not only are the money donations important, but people, small business owners, and local body shops have donated resources and time as well to help retrofit the minivans.
The Covid 19 pandemic put a hold on almost every aspect of daily living. According to the HOMH events page on the website, it did not hold any fundraisers in 2020, but sponsored numerous events and fundraisers in the past.
In September 2019, HOMH celebrated its 10th anniversary by throwing a cocktail fundraiser at Newman’s Own Headquarters in Westport, Conn. The party included words by the Guest of Honor, Corporal Josh Himan, USMC Retired, a minivan recipient and co-founder of the Driver Rehabilitation Center of Excellence. It also included a cooking demonstration by Food Network Chef Palak Patel, and live and silent auctions.
In July 2019, HOMH held a Stars and Stripes Poker Run, hosted by the Law Dogs Motorcycle Club, with fees of $25 per biker and $15 per passenger on a motorcycle ride in Portland, Conn. Upcoming events for 2021 are pending.
To make a donation to give severely wounded military service members the freedom to drive, visit the Help Our Military Heroes website: Help Our Military Heroes – Home
Photo at topL Help Our Military Heroes awards an adaptive minivan to Larry Standfield of Illinois.