Home Depot donates time and money

On May 18, 25 Home Depot employees from the Castleton store donated time and manpower on their day off to freshen up the Keltner property. Supporting Home Depot’s Do More for Veterans initiative, the employees used their expertise to improve the livelihood of the three veterans currently residing in the Keltner House.

The Keltner House was donated to HVAF in December 2009. It is one of three HVAF properties that is not covered by outside grants, and because the house is funded only by general donations, extra funds are necessary to pay for repairs. Because the Keltner House needed some general maintenance, the Home Depot Foundation approved a grant for $3,700 to pay for the materials necessary for the updates and repairs.

During their time at the Keltner House, the Home Depot employees painted the interior of the house, installed blinds and cleaned up the landscaping on the property. They also renovated the bathroom.

“This place got a major facelift thanks to Home Depot and these volunteers,” Keltner resident and veteran Tim said.

Home Depot has been a faithful partner to HVAF through the years, and this day dedicated to improving the home of HVAF veterans serves as one example of the lasting impact the organization has had on homeless veterans.

“It’s part of our corporate value to give back to the community,” store manager Matt Rice said. “A lot of us have veterans in our families and have been touched by the sacrifice of veterans, and we think this is a great way to serve them.”

Bikes needed to benefit veterans

Last February, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) case worker Mark Lykins saw a need among his clients. After observing veterans in different HVAF programs for several months, he realized how transportation was a limiting factor for many veterans trying to get back on their feet. As Lykins was trying to think of ways to help, he had an idea. He called together a committee to organize a way for people to donate bikes that they were not using so that veterans could use them for transportation.

“Busses don’t get everywhere, and many veterans work where bus routes do not reach. I know some who have to walk as far as two miles to work because the busses stop short of where they need to go,” Lykins said.

By donating a bike to HVAF, someone can equip a veteran to do everyday things such as get to work, transport groceries home from the grocery store and see their family. Bikes also encourage veterans to go outside and exercise, helping them get out of their houses and gravitate away from an isolated lifestyle.

“We have already had three bikes donated, and they have made a difference in the lives of veterans who have received them,” Volunteer Coordinator Robin Close said.

One former HVAF client, Mike, received a bike at the beginning of May. He claimed that the bike had a major impact on his life. Before receiving the bike, Mike had to walk everywhere. This presented problems because of his medical issues, which caused him to have difficulty breathing and swollen feet. After receiving his bike, Mike is now able to be more mobile.

“Since receiving my bike from HVAF, I now have the ability to go outside of my neighborhood.  I am so grateful for whoever donated my bike; it was such an act of kindness,” Mike said.

Mike now volunteers his time with HVAF after benefitting from the program himself. He encourages anybody who has a bike that is not in use to donate it so that more veterans can benefit from the gift of transportation like he did.

“A gift as simple as a bike can be a real life-changer,” he said.

There is currently a waiting list with the names of veterans who are in need of a bike, and we are asking donors to please consider donating bikes that are no longer being used. Those interested in donating a bike should contact Mark at

Seventh graders step up to learn, help veterans

It was through a simple Google search that Triton Central Middle School language arts teacher Tiffany Almond discovered HVAF. Her motivation for consulting the search engine was a discussion with her seventh grade students that came up regarding the homeless veteran crisis. After talking about the problem of homelessness among our nation’s heroes, Almond’s students insisted on learning more about the issue and what they could do to help.

After finding HVAF online, Almond connected with Volunteer Coordinator Robin Close and scheduled a visit on April 7 for her seventh grade students to come to HVAF.

During the visit, the students observed what goes on during any given day within an HVAF facility. The students saw the food pantry and the clothing pantry on their tour, and they recognized that HVAF was low on many supplies. The students also had the opportunity to eat lunch with several HVAF clients in the Residential, Employment, Substance Abuse Treatment (REST) program and hear their stories about overcoming substance abuse and re-integrating into daily life after their service.

“One of the veterans told me that seeing us kids touring and wanting to help made his day. That made my heart smile,” said Triton Central student Bella.

On the bus ride back to school after their day at HVAF, the Triton Central Middle School students began formulating plans to serve HVAF in its mission of helping homeless veterans. Later that week, the students launched a canned food drive and a hygiene item drive at their school to collect items to replenish HVAF’s supplies.

On May 18, Almond’s class returned to HVAF, bringing the food and hygiene supplies that they had collected with them. After dropping off the supplies, the class caravanned over to the Warman property, where they planted the five flats of flowers that they had raised money to purchase for HVAF. In addition to planting the flowers, the students worked outside at the property for three hours pulling weeds and mulching.

Because of a single Google search, Almond’s students were connected with HVAF, where they saw a need among their heroes and decided to do what they could to meet it. Because of their willingness to help, they made a lasting impact on the lives of the veterans that HVAF serves.

Mission Mondays for HVAF

Womens clothing retailer Altar’d State has chosen to support HVAF through its Mission Monday initiative, declaring that 10 percent of all sales made on Mondays in May and June at its Indianapolis location will be donated to HVAF. The organization began Mission Monday as a philanthropic effort to use its position in the retail industry to give back. 

Altar’d State employees will also volunteer time at HVAF properties throughout the coming months to further its partnership with HVAF. One project they plan on helping with is organizing HVAF’s clothing pantry- a task that their retail experience will help them complete.

“We decided to support HVAF because we were deeply moved by its mission and want to do everything we can to help support and enrich the lives of homeless veterans in our community,” said Mission Monday Captain Jessica Oaks. 

Altar’d State employees connect with the mission of HVAF not only because their organization values giving back, but because they have family members and friends who are veterans that have taught them the importance of honoring America’s heroes.

Veteran escapes despair, finds dream job

Tim, 57, joined the Army in 1978 because he wanted to try something new. He had previously been working at the YMCA in Peru, Indiana, and he hoped to find some adventure and value in serving his country. His father and his two stepfathers had both served in the Army, but Tim’s experience during his service proved to be quite different. Soon after being stationed at Fort McCLellan in Alabama, Tim was diagnosed with scoliosis and sent home. Because he had only been able to serve for a couple of months before his diagnosis, Tim regarded himself as a failure.

“My diagnosis played a negative role in my life and it had a domino effect as my life soon began to spiral out of control,” Tim said. “I turned to drugs and alcohol, and I kept everything bottled up.”

After leaving the Army, Tim jumped from state to state and lived as a gypsy for over twenty years. During this time, Tim tried three different rehab programs but none proved to be effective. Tim wanted to find a job in medical billing, but he was forced to work odd jobs to make ends meet because he lacked a stable living situation and struggled with addiction.

“After I came back, I found it difficult to get adjusted. I struggled with depression, and I was even suicidal. I would ask myself, ‘What’s the point of living if I’m going to live like this?” Tim said.

Last August, Tim decided to return to Indiana, where he went through an inpatient rehab program at Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital. After he completed the program, Tim spent two months in a Horizon House transitional shelter, where he obtained help with his DD214 form, and then he came to HVAF in October for help in finding a job and permanent housing.

“When I arrived at HVAF, I was nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect, but my time at HVAF has been nothing but a positive experience,” Tim said. “HVAF has given me a new outlook on my past and a jump start towards my future.”

Once at HVAF, Tim worked with Sarah Reed, his case manager, to obtain temporary housing at the Keltner House, one of HVAF’s residential properties. He also worked with Employment Specialists who helped him create a resume and apply for jobs. Tim was offered a job working at the Indianapolis International Airport soon after his arrival, but he still hoped to find a job in medical billing.

Even after Tim had been hired at the airport, employment specialists continued the job search with him in hopes of finding him the job he had always wanted. As a result of hard work and persistence, Tim was offered a job as a customer service representative for Vespa Group in April. He was also able to find an apartment of his own through HVAF’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, which helped him pay his first deposit, rent and utility payments.

Tim will begin his new job in June by waking up at 6 a.m. and boarding the bus for an hour-and-thirty-minute commute. Once he arrives at work, Tim will be handling customer calls and explaining customers’ benefits within their medical insurance coverage.

Tim has been sober for over a year now and has reconnected with some family. He expresses deep excitement and gratitude for this employment opportunity and is enthusiastic about his future.

“When I came to HVAF, I had nothing other than the clothes on my back. Now, I have a savings account with more money than I have ever had before, an apartment of my own and my dream job,” Tim said.