Des Moines Remodelers Help Military Families
The call was successful: The launch of Operation Troop Support brought Iowans from all over the state who came through for their neighbors, offering lots of volunteer time and effort.
But when the HBA of Greater Des Moines' Professional Women in Building (PWB) council heard about that effort, member Gail Harrison, a project analyst for Wells Fargo, thought they might be able to do a little bit more.
Joining forces with the Des Moines' Remodelers Council and with the fund raising and materials support of the rest of the membership, the HBA was able to partner with the American Legion to make a significant and positive difference in the lives of families whose fathers or mothers are deployed and prevent them from being victimized by unscrupulous contractors who overcharge for simple home repairs, or who get away with shoddy work because the families don't know enough about what needs to be done or are overtaxed by the stress that deployment brings.
The Legion staff was the point of contact for requests for help. "The soldiers feel a little more comfortable going through the American Legion," Harrison said. "We tried to make it as easy as possible that way."
The Legion screened the requests to make sure that those families with the most critical needs and the least financial resources would be helped first. Legion staff then contacted the PWB to help them find a reputable contractor to do the work.
HBA Remodeler volunteers stepped up to the plate with the idea that they would do the work at cost – although, Nees said, "most of the time, they end up not charging anything, or very little."
HBA members also decided that the revenue from its regularly scheduled garage sale of extra building materials, as well as snacks and beverages sold at the sale, would be used to buy materials for work done as part of Operation Troop Support.
While some of the tasks were as simple as giving a second opinion on an estimate for a repair that ended up saving a family more than $1,000, some situations were more complex, involving both labor and materials.
Right before Christmas, Nees got an e-mail from the wife of a deployed serviceman after the family's basement flooded, ruining flooring and carpeting in the basement bedrooms. Her insurance company denied coverage and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it couldn't help either.
HBA EO Creighton Cox volunteered to take the home owner to the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore to help her pick out vinyl flooring and other materials for the project. "I've got a buddy in Afghanistan with a wife and 6-month-old here at home, and [this] situation just tugs at me a lot," Cox said in an e-mail to Lance Henning, the store's manager.
In response, Habitat donated the drywall for the project and offered other materials at a discounted rate. A local carpet company offered a significant discount on replacement carpet and a painter donated his services as well.
Remodeler John Kittrell spearheaded the construction work, making it possible for the family to once again use the basement rooms. Nees thanked Mr. Kittrell for his efforts, "and he told me that while he had never served in the military, his father and grandfather had, and that this was his way of giving back," she said.
The PWB and Remodelers are extending the work of Operation Troop Support to offer assistance to other families in need, including repairs to the home of a disabled veteran to make it handicapped-accessible.
And now, the HBA is helping the soldiers themselves. Greg and Cheryl Arganbright of Woodharbor Doors & Cabinets organized a tool drive to send tools over to the troops to improve their living conditions.
"They also have a son deployed and he'd requested tools, as their remote barracks area was in need of completion and improvement and he knew HBA could get what they needed faster than the National Guard," Harrison said. "The tools and any supplies not used will then be donated to the Afghan nationals to use for their own home repairs, so it's truly the completion of a very large circle of support."
For the remodelers and PWB, it's all in a day's work. "It's Iowa, we're kind of a tight-knit place," Harrison said. "It's good to know that people are still willing to take care of friends and neighbors.
Copyright 2011 Remodelers Council of Greater Des Moines