Volunteers turn out to lend vets a hand
By Judy Pochel For The Courier-News May 28, 2012 4:54PM
Jeff Gilbert, founder of Hope for Tomorrow, has been working from the architectural drawings for months and is finally seeing his vision come to fruition. Built in 1857, the latest Hope for Tomorrow home, in downtown Aurora, will house up to 15 struggling veterans and is expected to open this fall. | Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:28AM
AURORA — Volunteers from across the Fox Valley came out over this month to help those who have at one time helped all Americans — U.S. military veterans.
Rebuilding Together Aurora and the Sears Heroes at Home program sponsored the event as volunteers worked to rehabilitate a home that will serve as a place for a safe, structured, supportive and substance-free housing for veterans.
Built in 1857, the two-story Hope for Tomorrow home will have seven bedrooms and house some 15 veterans, and include accessibility quarters for veterans with disabilities, office space for counselors, a computer lab and meeting spaces.
Volunteers all said they were happy to help the veterans in need.
“I believe in the cause. You can give back to those who gave back everyday,” said volunteer Lisa Curran.
“You have to believe. It is a huge project but it’s just a few hours. If we can’t give money we can give our time,” said Chelsea Staggert, another volunteer who stood with painting tape in the kitchen of the facility.
“We fund the Heroes at Home program and it is a way for all of our employees to help in fundraising,” said Brian Hanover with Sears Holdings.
When customers check out at Sears stores around the country they are asked by the sales clerk if they want to “round up” their purchases as donations to fund the project. Hanover said just a few pennies can amount to a sizeable contribution.
In 2011 Sears matched some $3 million in donations nationwide for the Heroes at Home project.
“This is one of 150 projects going on in communities across the nation for veterans,” Hanover said of the Aurora volunteer effort.
“Americans are all appreciative of the military sacrifices that have helped protect our freedom. This is a morale booster for our sales associates. Those at our front lines are giving service when they can,” he said.
Organizers say there are 23 million veterans in the U.S. and an estimated 150,000 of them are homeless.
This project is aimed at getting at-risk service members off the street and into safe homes.
Hope for Tomorrow is a non-profit organization that provides safe, structured housing in conjunction with ongoing professional counseling through its five recovery homes in the Chicago area.
Jeff Gilbert, founder of Hope for Tomorrow, said the men returning home from the battlefield need the assistance of the community.
The hope for the home in the 400 block of North Lake Street is to have it ready to open this fall.
Amy Altenbern, executive director, Rebuilding Together Aurora, said the volunteer opportunities will continue throughout the summer, and interested residents can contact them regarding assistance they may need or to offer to volunteer.