Bunker Labs – a 501(c)(3) non-profit – is a national network of veteran entrepreneurs dedicated to helping new veteran entrepreneurs start their own business. Their vision is to empower the entrepreneurial dreams of the military connected community and they are committed to seeing that every entrepreneur in the veteran community has the network, tools, and resources they need to start their own business. One way that Bunker Labs provides these resources is through Bunker Brews veterans networking events.
Bunker Brews is a monthly meet-up where the Bunker Labs community — veterans, military spouses, and civilians alike can network with subject matter experts, investors, thought leaders, creating a robust environment for growth and development.
HomeServe Marketing Panel
HomeServe was proud to recently sponsor a Bunker Brews event in Denver, Colorado, and participate in the panel discussion: “Marketing and Branding – How to Make Your Phone Ring.” I was joined by three very talented co-panelists; Trevor Shirk, Founder and CEO of Strattex; Rob Bingham, Executive Director and CEO of Colorado Veterans Project and Kristin McFarland, President of Source Marketing Group, each of whom provided tremendous insight into branding, social media, email and event marketing.
At HomeServe, caring is in the fabric of our corporate culture. The HomeServe Cares Foundation is built upon four community pillars, including Caring for Veterans. The HomeServe Cares Foundation supports various programs and efforts that provided needed resources to our transitioning military and veteran families in communities across the U.S., including veterans networking events. A cornerstone of the Caring for Veterans pillar is the HomeServe Veterans Recruitment Initiative,which offers veterans opportunities to launch post-military careers in the plumbing, electrical and HVAC trades, and for other business functions here at HomeServe.
We are proud to have veterans as part of our HomeServe family and recognize the tremendous impact they have on our culture and community.
Local to the Denver area? Check out the Colorado Veteran Project’s various events, including an annual Memorial Day Run & March, which raises over $100,000 and 40,000 pounds of food annually to help feed local homeless Veterans.
HomeServe partners with utilities who are looking for opportunities to connect more deeply with customers. HomeServe helps to improve customer engagement for our utility partners through the integration of complementary home repair programs with utility initiatives such as energy efficiency and safety, offering customers greater access and choice For more information, contact us.
In Luckey, Ohio, Serenity Farm Equestrian Center has been offering equine therapy and learning programs for nearly 20 years, helping those with mobility and neurological issues live healthier, happier lives.
“I think it’s such an opportunity to work alongside so many different families,” said founder Debra DeHoff. “No matter what they’re going through, we’re able to share what we do with them and hope it makes life a little bit better.”
The center is open to individuals of all ages and offers therapeutic riding, occupational therapy and equine-assisted learning for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder; those with autism, behavioral issues, learning delays and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; and victims of domestic violence. The youngest client to receive services was 2, and the oldest 103.
Building a Bond
Working with horses requires the center’s clients to be calm and communicate with the animal, encouraging focus and coping skills.
“It takes patience and partnership with the horse,” DeHoff said.
Building a bond between rider and horse while shutting out the outside world allows clients peace of mind.
“We have a survey, and one of [our client’s] parents said that, when they come here, all the world is left outside the gates, and it’s serenity from heaven,” DeHoff said. “We’re focusing on just this hour and you are the most important person in the world. Sometimes, we put on gentle music, just walk [with the horse] and see where things are.”
Safety is paramount when dealing with interactions between clients and horses, and the center uses the Parelli Natural Horsemanship method to train their horses to be calm and responsive. Because the horses are exposed to diverse stimuli and are in many different environments, it is important that the horses themselves and the instructors are trained to understand and communicate with one another.
“Horses are prey animals and we are predators by nature, so learning to interact takes skills,” DeHoff said. “[The horses] are trained to take on a lot of things.”
The Parelli Foundation
The Parelli Foundation also has supported the equestrian center through grants, assisting in training volunteers and staff and donating gently used equipment.
“That’s how much they believe in us,” DeHoff said. “There are several Parelli Professionals here in Ohio who come and help us out.”
Serenity Farm also hosts “Team Thunder,” a team of mini horses which center volunteers take to local nursing homes, hospices and Ronald McDonald Houses. The horses operate much like therapy dogs or cats in these situations, and they are trained in the Parelli method and have up-to-date veterinary records on file.
“We had a lady who was doing rehab, and she saw one of the minis climbing stairs,” DeHoff said. “She said, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’”
A Calming Presence
The mini horses are trained at the equestrian center to be calm in the face of everything from hospital equipment to fire alarms. Many times, they are called upon to interact with dementia patients.
“We often have [patients] come out of their rooms when they know we’re coming,” DeHoff said. “We go and generate energy – you would be surprised at how many memories come to the forefront. They owned a horse, or their daughter wanted one or their neighbor had one. They’re talking to each other, engaged, socializing, smiling, laughing, out of their rooms. Almost everyone wants to pet them.”
Some assisted living patients even “walk” the minis when they’re mobile and their caretakers are present to monitor them.
“The oldest veteran we’ve worked with – he was 100 years old and very sharp, I wouldn’t have guessed his age – he got up and walked with them. The minis can work with the veterans in a multitude of locations, and, when they aren’t working with the minis, they can take part in therapeutic riding, occupational therapy or equine-assisted learning.”
Veterans, including several who served in Vietnam, also lend a helping hand at the center by volunteering.
“They are a real treat – wonderful – and they are dedicated to service,” DeHoff said.
It was the center’s commitment to helping veterans that attracted the attention of the HomeServe Cares Foundation, which made a monetary donation to the center through its Caring for Veterans program. The center depends on fundraisers and grant programs to keep the barn doors open and enjoys a great deal of support from the local community.
“On your [IRS form] 990, you should be able to show 33.3 percent [financial] general community support and ours sits at 78 percent,” DeHoff said. “We’re very proud of that. It requires a strong sense of integrity and listening to feedback. We strive and work for that and don’t take it for granted.”
DeHoff was especially grateful for the support because opening the equestrian center was a reinvention of herself after moving from Philadelphia to rural Ohio. With a background in social work and a professional career as a horsewoman behind her, it seemed like a natural fit – so much so that she had been frequently encouraged to go into equine therapy. However, she took it slowly.
“People were saying, ‘Would you consider this?’ and I had no idea, I didn’t know anything about it. But it kept crossing my path, so I checked into it.”
She spent a year researching equine therapy, visiting other facilities offering it and learning what licenses it would require.
“I wanted to do it by the letter,” she said. “I wanted to follow best practices, not have a backyard-type situation.” Now nationally recognized for best practices in equine-assisted therapies, Serenity enjoys a solid reputation and has mentored others in the process in the U.S., Africa, Germany and the Netherlands with professionals traveling to the little farm in Luckey, Ohio.
In addition to their current work, the center plans to open therapeutic riding to children of veterans and active duty military. About their work, DeHoff noted that therapeutic riding allows individual interaction.
“It is better one on one, because you have a personal connection,” she said.
Serenity Farm will be taking part in Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3. Consider Serenity as your charity choice and help them to help others.
We are proud to share that HomeServe launched the HomeServe Cares Foundation, a four-pillar Corporate Social Responsibility program, this past April. The Foundation is backed by a substantial financial commitment to support the mission of Spreading Hope and Supporting Communities One Home at a Time. HomeServe has a long legacy of giving back to communities and helping homeowners in need. The HomeServe Cares Foundation brings together the company’s existing Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, as well as many new ones, to make an even greater impact.
Four Pillars of the HomeServe Cares Foundation
Caring For People – This is an expansion of the existing HomeServe Cares program through which the company completes home repair jobs for disadvantaged homeowners who are facing a home emergency they are unable to handle financially. In 2018, HomeServe completed 103 HomeServe Cares jobs across 27 states.
Caring For Community – Municipalities and non-profits can apply for grants to help fund community-based projects. The two grants were awarded. Rochester, New York-based The Arc of Monroe County will use their grant to enhance and improve the conditions in their residential facilities with a focus on remodeling an aging bathroom to make it more accessible. The City of Tampa, Florida’s Parks & Recreation Department will fund the installation of ADA-compliant beach mats in order to provide access for mobility-challenged locals and visitors. Another round of grants focused on home repair programs that benefit low-income seniors and veterans has just been announced and will be awarded mid-September.
Caring For Vets – HomeServe’s veterans hiring initiative connects current and transitioning military men and women with the HomeServe contractor network with the objective of placing veterans into paid apprenticeships in the skilled trades.
Caring For Good – This pillar includes an employee-directed charitable matching program, our Helping Hands program to assist employees faced with a personal crisis, and employee volunteer efforts. HomeServe provides its employees with eight hours of paid leave each year to volunteer in their communities.
At its core, the American Patriot Music Project is about veterans helping other veterans. The organization believes music can bring about healing for veterans’ mental health.
There is music, but, more importantly, there is companionship and acceptance, a fellowship forged along with guitars and chords. Among that fellowship, veterans can talk about the wounds of the past and begin the road to healing.
“We don’t have to be so focused on the trauma,” said Tony “T-Bone” Villegas. “We can do something else. Music helps time pass without having to think about it.”
Tony, the Project’s Executive Director, is a U.S. Army and California National Guard veteran. In the National Guard, he served two years as an assistant chaplain and an acting chaplain. He became used to his fellow guardsmen approaching him quietly, in out-of-the-way places and sometimes late at night.
“I’d look up, one of them would say, ‘can I talk to you?’ and I knew they were about to open up,” Tony said.
A Great Calling to Improve Veterans’ Mental Health
Tony’s experience in being present for another veteran would serve him well as the Executive Director of the American Patriot Music Project. Amidst the flurry of fundraising, organizing, presenting and performing, he still is frequently called to simply be present for another veteran who needs someone to listen.
He also is a member of the American Patriot Band, which serves not only as a centerpiece for fundraising, but as a jam group for veterans who want the experience of being on stage or simply to play with a group. The group has even gone on tour to support a veteran’s upcoming album, spreading awareness of the importance of veterans’ mental health.
The music project, created by Darrin Isham, a retired SEAL, originally was a chapter of the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, which focused on post-9/11 veterans who had seen combat or were injured. As a combat veteran himself, Isham knew the pressing need to address Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS).
As time went on, the foundation perceived the need to expand their services to veterans who hadn’t been directly involved in combat, as they also could suffer from injury and PTS. Eventually, the work of the music project became so successful it became its own non-profit organization, extending services to veterans of all eras.
“Many [older] veterans, you just came home and dealt with it [PTS],” Tony said. “There were no services.”
More Than Performances
In addition to their performances, the music project provides grants for musical instruments and music therapy programs and leads guitar-building workshops and veterans meetings.
“We’ve had veterans jam with us,” Tony said of the American Patriot Band. “At Camp Pendleton, there was a musician who just wanted to play with a live band. He was a great musician, he’d just never played with anyone before.”
The music project has provided a guitar to a veteran who had mastered the ukulele as part of his music therapy and was looking to explore another string instrument. Another veteran suffering from TBI needed a bass amplifier, so the music project provided one.
“I just shipped a drum kit yesterday,” Tony said.
Yet another veteran had lost his legs and part of his fingers to an Improvised Explosive Device and couldn’t play guitar, so music project volunteers provided a violin and keyboard. Later, he spoke at a performance of the American Patriot Band.
“Just watching him climb those steps to the stage was powerful,” Tony said. “To see the results, that he could come and speak about his experience in a public space.”
The music project received a $4,000 grant to purchase more instruments for veterans when Temecula Mayor Pro Tem James “Stew” Stewart designated the organization as the recipient of the Heroes in My City Sweepstakes prize. The sweepstakes was held by Utility Service Partners, a HomeServe company, in conjunction with the announcement of the company’s new Veteran’s Recruitment Initiative at November’s NLC City Summit.
“Thank you,” Tony said. “We’re very appreciative.”
A Survivor’s Story
The music project doesn’t only provide musical instruments, but support of many types. Brad Fite, who wrote “Life After Death: A Survivor’s Story” about his injuries from a roadside bomb, his subsequent PTS and suicide attempts, also benefited from the music project, which supported his recording an album.
The music project has recently launched an all-women’s group to provide women veterans with a peer group in which they can feel comfortable and understands the unique challenges of being a woman in the military. In particular, women are more vulnerable to Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
“They have a higher suicide rate if they’ve experienced MST,” Tony said of the risks. “We want our sisters to know we are there for them.”
Through a partnership with Sinclair College and its STEM Guitar Project, led by Tom Singer, Mechanical Engineering Technology professor, the music project has hosted several guitar-building workshops. The workshops take participants through each step of building a guitar, from cutting the body through wiring it for sound.
“The best compliment I ever received was a veteran [at a workshop] who said, ‘I didn’t think of anything else but this guitar for the last four days,’” Tony said. “That’s what we want, to show them that they can think of things other than the nightmare in their heads.”
Another veteran was concerned that he might not be able to endure the noise of the power tools, since his service had left him with PST and an extreme sensitivity to loud noise. Tony assured him that he would work with him during the workshop. By the second day, the veteran was helping others with their projects, despite his worries.“That’s what it’s all about,” Tony said. “Vets helping vets.”
In conjunction with the announcement of our new Veteran’s Hiring Initiative at last November’s NLC City Summit in Los Angeles, we invited cities to submit photos honoring veterans via Twitter to our Utility Service Partners account. To enter the Heroes In My City Sweepstakes, city officials were asked to take a selfie at veteran-themed location in their city or one honoring a veteran in their city, and tweet it with the hashtags “#USPSweepsEntry” and “#HeroesInMyCity.” The winner received $4,000 to donate to a veteran’s organization of their choice. We received some great entries and are so gratified to see cities honoring their veterans.
Here are a few examples:
And the winner is… The City of Temecula, California!
These photos were taken at the ribbon cutting in September for the opening of a new Naval Branch Health Clinic that will improve the lives of service members and their families in the area. The TRICARE Outpatient Clinic — Naval Branch Health Clinic Temecula is honoring veterans by offering family practice medicine, a pharmacy, a laboratory for blood work and other needs and will soon offer physical therapy.
The area has a large number of military families. Before the clinic’s opening, active duty service members and their families had to either drive to Camp Pendleton (20 miles away) or San Diego (58 miles away) for medical services. When fully operational, the facility will service over 9,500 patients.
“We are honored to have so many military families reside in Temecula, and this health clinic will provide important services to these exemplary citizens,” said James “Stew” Stewart, Mayor Pro Tem. “Thank you to HomeServe for helping Temecula-area veterans!”
The City of Temecula has numerous programs to honor and assist military personnel and veterans. The City’s website has a special section dedicated to information about these special initiatives, which include scholarship programs, dedicated parking for purple heart recipients, a banner program to recognize active duty personnel, and more. For more information, visit Adopted Armed Forces Veterans.
The City has chosen American Patriot Music Project as the recipient of the $4,000 prize. This Temecula-based non-profit, comprised of the award-winning signature band AMERICAN PATRIOT, provides music program support to veterans and first responders. The band works with veterans and first responders on and off stage, supporting a variety of music projects designed to create a positive influence in the lives of our nation’s heroes who need help. For more information visit American Patriot Music.
Robust, Four Pillar Corporate Social Responsibility Program Spreads Hope and Supports Communities
Norwalk, Conn. (April 2, 2019) – Today, HomeServe USA (HomeServe), a leading provider of home repair solutions, launched the HomeServe Cares Foundation, a new, four pillar Corporate Social Responsibility program. The HomeServe Cares Foundation is backed by a substantial financial commitment to support the mission of “Spreading Hope and Supporting Communities One Home at a Time.”
HomeServe has a long legacy of giving back to communities and helping homeowners in need. The launch of the HomeServe Cares Foundation will bring together the company’s existing Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, as well as many new ones, to make an even greater impact. Details about the HomeServe Cares Foundation are available on the new website, https://www.homeserveusa.com/sc/corporate-social-responsibility.
The four pillars of the HomeServe Cares Foundation are:
Caring For People – This is an expansion of the existing HomeServe Cares program through which the company completes home repair jobs for eligible homeowners who are not customers and who find themselves facing a home emergency they are unable to handle financially. In 2018, HomeServe completed 103 HomeServe Cares jobs across 27 states.
Caring For Community – Municipalities and non-profits can apply for grants to help fund community-based projects. Grant applications will be accepted beginning Wednesday April 10, 2019. At that time, full details will be published here and on twitter @HomeServeUSNews. Priority will be given to projects that focus on aging in place, homeless or disabled veterans, low income housing and residents, and park accessibility improvements.
Caring For Vets – HomeServe’s newly-launched veterans hiring initiative will be wrapped into the HomeServe Cares Foundation. The initiative connects current and transitioning military men and women with the HomeServe contractor network with the objective of placing veterans into paid apprenticeships in the trades.
Caring For Good – HomeServe will launch an employee-directed corporate charitable matching program and implement measures to make it easier for HomeServe employees to participate in volunteer efforts. HomeServe already provides its employees with eight hours of paid leave each year to volunteer. In addition, HomeServe will formalize an existing Helping Hands program to better assist employees faced with a personal crisis.
“HomeServe is committed to putting people at the heart of everything we do, and that includes engaging in socially responsible activities,” said HomeServe CEO John Kitzie. “With the HomeServe Cares Foundation, we will support communities, improve the quality of life for residents and our employees, and assist veterans and vulnerable homeowners. HomeServe is completely committed to spreading hope and supporting communities, one home at a time.”
Throughout the month of April, HomeServe will release additional details about the four pillars of the HomeServe Cares Foundation with details posted here and on Twitter @HomeServeUSNews.
HomeServe USA Corp. (HomeServe) is a leading provider of home repair solutions serving 3.7 million customers across the US and Canada under the HomeServe, Home Emergency Insurance Solutions, Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA) and Service Line Warranties of Canada (SLWC) names.
Since 2003, HomeServe has been protecting homeowners against the expense and inconvenience of water, sewer, electrical, HVAC and other home repair emergencies by providing affordable repair coverage, installations and quality local service.
HomeServe is an A+ rated Better Business Bureau Accredited Business, dedicated to being a customer-focused company supplying best-in-class repair plans and other services to consumers directly and through over 600 leading municipal, utility and association partners.
HomeServe is a proud sponsor of This Old House on PBS, working together to provide homeowners expert advice on maintaining, enhancing and protecting their homes. For more information about HomeServe, a Connecticut Top Workplace winner and recipient of thirty-three 2019 Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service, or to learn more about HomeServe’s affordable repair plans, please go to www.homeserveusa.com.