published Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Consumer Watch: Operation Homefront assists wounded vets

By Ellen Phillips

Some readers may remember a column from last year featuring home-grown charities. This week is a piggy-back on that information and concerns Operation Homefront (OH) a national organization and its Tennessee-Kentucky area chapter. Its mission is to provide emergency financial and other assistance to our wounded warriors and to the families of our service members.

As we know from all the news, hundreds of thousands suffer from the effects of war, especially those in the Middle East: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); Traumatic Brain Injury; bodily injuries and death; and emotional and financial hardships. In our area just recently in July, OH gave away the 108th free and clear home on July 2nd in our own Chattanooga, even though this soldier’s injury prohibited media coverage. (This is not to be confused with the community-built home provided by Steps 2Hope to Apison wounded soldier Andrew Smith.)

Whether directly responsible or acting as an advocate through other organizations, following 9/11, Operation Homefront has helped more than 740,000 families and personnel nationwide and invested $128 million in programs that support them. In fact, just last year, the charity met over 150,000 individual needs from all service branches, including National Guard and the Reserve. And unlike many charities that take a big bite of your donation pie to fund its staff, 94 cents out of every dollar donated to OH is spent directly on the needs of US military service people. Not only has this earned the organization the coveted four-star status from the watchdog group Charity Navigator, it also places OH in the top 3 percent of all charities.

So, yes, because our heroes are paid a pittance, many come home wounded in one way or another and often face no job prospects - and, yes, because some are only days away from becoming homeless - monetary contributions are very important to help with rent, groceries, school supplies, transportation to a new home, essential baby items, and a number of other needs. But Operation Homefront also asks for volunteers.

Chapters have few or no paid staff, so without helpers, the mission couldn’t be accomplished. From special event volunteers to those at staff-level, these people really make THE difference in Operation Homefront’s success. Programs and services duties include:

• Yellow Ribbon ceremonies before and after deployment to provide valuable resource information to our troops.

• Adopt a Family. (For the past two Christmases, I’ve been part of a group that purchased gifts for area military kids who might not otherwise have any, and then we got together to wrap all the goodies.)

• Homes on the Homefront, such as the house built in Chattanooga and the other 107 mortgage-free home.

• Hearts of Valor offers support to caregivers.

• OH Villages offers free transitional housing for families as their wounded warriors transitions from military service back to civilian life.

• Homefront celebrations give spouses some time off from caretaking.

• Community events

• Food assistance

• Moving assistance

• Auto repair

• Vision care

• Financial assistance

• Home repair and essential home items

• Morale donated items

• Morale holiday programs

See you at the Homefront.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher. Her column appears each Sunday.

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