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Homes for Heroes reaches out to do more

Homes for Heroes is working to fill in the cracks that veterans too often fall through. Del Jurney and Jim Cassidy volunteered recently to help move a veteran into a home more suited to his needs. (Submitted Photo)

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Barbara Gomez wanted to help Homes for Heroes, so she approached them, went to a meeting and became their president.

“In January of this year I met with Bob Power and the Homes for Heroes group,” she said. “I was looking for somebody to give donations from the Baby Boomer (Expo), too. I decided to check them out. I went to a meeting in March, and was voted in as president. I wanted to be a part of it, the vision was good.”
The vision of Homes for Heroes is fairly straight forward.
“The vision is: There are veterans out there that need help. Sometimes the VA is not able to help with home-type things that make the veteran more comfortable.”
Gomez took the office with the understanding that she was going to learn everything about the organization.
“After I became president I began to look over everything,” she said, “because that’s what I do. I want to see the ground floor. I want to see that you are truly a not-for-profit. I want to see your finances. I want to see your track record.”
She saw changes that were needed.
“Their vision at that time was to give away homes to heroes,” Gomez said. “I was looking at their finances and I said, ‘At this point, you’re never going to give away a home to anybody. That means you’re telling people about Homes for Heroes for two years and still you have no track record.’”
The changes were easier than she expected.
“I told them, ‘Because you don’t have enough money to buy a house, maybe we can tweak the vision to include modifications, repairs of homes or resources,”’ Gomez said. “It turns out we didn’t have to tweak the vision, that was already a part of it, so we just shifted our focus on mainly helping where we can.”
Gomez had been talking about Homes for Heroes and felt she had her finger on the pulse of this situation.
“I knew the community would get behind the idea,” she said, “but I want a track record. I want to know what you’re doing. I don’t want to hear you say, ‘I’m doing this’ but there’s nothing to show for it. I want to see how they’re being good stewards of the money they get.”
Next, they revisited the application for services.
“I looked at the application process,” Gomez said, “and I felt it was not effective. It said you had to be at least 70 percent disabled before they could help you. If you’re 70, 80, 100 percent disabled the VA will help you. You get money, you get assistance. It’s the people that are falling through the cracks that we need to help. Even for those at 100 percent disability we can help keep them from falling through the cracks sometimes. We also re-did the application to include first responders, and spouses which was part of the vision.”
Along with the application, now there is a complete follow-through process.
“I created a process in which they would put in an application and we’d do a home visit,” she said. “Things could be worse than stated, or better than stated, so I wanted eyes on the situation. After that we’d determine how much money we could spend on this project. Then we would have closure on this project, and be able to say when it was completed and how we accomplished it. Even if we say no, we want to be able to say why we said no.”

Gomez said they have a new board of directors, and they’re a very hands-on board.
“The board is Barbara Gomez, president,” she said. “Del Jurney is vice president and temporary treasurer. Our secretary is Marcia Tidwell. After that, we have directors and they are Nancy Britton, Julian Torrez, and Gabriel Casaus. Then we have Jim Cassidy as a volunteer. As the veterans’ services coordinator his job won’t allow him to hold an office, so he helps under the volunteer title as he can. We also have Jackie Morris and Brit Snyder helping out, too.”
Although the group is busy, Gomez said they can do a lot more for the heroes when they establish themselves a bit more solidly.
“Right now I’m looking for three things,” she said. People who are willing to help direct and help with the organization. Those are the board of directors. Then we’re looking for volunteers. There are a lot of people who just want to help. Finally, we need publicity.
“We’re looking to lay a strong foundation first, though. I already have adult protective services calling saying, ‘We have a gentleman, can you help?’ and Blue Cross Blue Shield called and told me they need a ramp for someone. Their nursing home won’t allow them to go home until they have a ramp and can get their wheelchair into the home.’ I’ve told them, ‘I’m afraid to open up the floodgates until I know we are ready for what’s going to happen.’”
The organization is too well known to be completely silent while building that foundation. They’re already building that track record.
“We’ve helped one gentleman in Dexter with a floor, an air conditioner, a handicap accessible bathroom,” Gomez said. “We had 12 people from 7 a.m. to about noon cleaning his front yard. That was three jobs in one. Another veteran in Hagerman has no heating or air conditioning. We could not repair his heating and cooling system because re-doing it cost more than the house was worth, he lives in an old single-wide, so we got him a window unit.
“Another gentleman, we’re getting ready to put electricity in his home. He’s a Vietnam veteran with agent orange issues. He had rented his home out while taking care of his mother in Carlsbad. Now he’s moving back and he can’t live in the home because the electrical system is not to code. They’re going to re-do his electricity this week. It’s a big dollar amount, but we had a donor give us the money.”
This year, the fundraiser that has evolved to support the organization is almost upon us, and it promises to be both fun and fruitful.
“The heroes banquet is a fundraiser that’s been around for eight years,” Gomez said. “The first five years it helped out different organizations. The previous two years and this year it’s for Homes for Heroes, and it will remain like this from now on.”
They have a variety of honorees for the evening.
“The banquet is to honor police officers, firemen, volunteer firemen, sheriff’s department, state police, Hagerman and Dexter are included, the National Guard, and we will be honoring two veterans,” Gomez said. “Our goal is to celebrate the unsung hero that’s been around for awhile. We’ll be honoring around 10 heroes.”
The Heroes Banquet will be held the middle of this month.
“The banquet is Saturday, Sept. 16 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the civic center,” Gomez said. “Tickets are $15 each and you can buy them from me by calling 626-8033, or email at homesforheroes2017@gmail.com. We’re also on Facebook. You can buy them at the door, but I need to be able to tell my caterer what to expect.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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