news.cuna.org/articles/110317-service-with-a-heart
Purple Heart Homes
Cornerstone CU League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler (left) and Purple Heart Homes Executive Director John Gallina share military service stories at the Cornerstone CU League’s annual meeting (Purple Heart Homes Photo).

Service with a heart

Leagues and CUs help military veterans with home renovation projects.

May 25, 2016

Throughout their history, credit unions have had a close relationship with all branches of the military. Through that relationship, credit unions have also honored and supported veterans.

In the spirit of that tradition, Georgia Credit Union Affiliates and the Cornerstone Credit Union League are assisting military veterans with home renovation projects.

The initiatives are a collaborative effort with Purple Heart Homes, a charitable organization founded by two Iraq combat-wounded veterans that provides housing solutions to military service-connected disabled veterans and their families.

The Purple Heart campaigns gain steam during May, which Congress designated as National Military Appreciation Month in 1999.

The designation was made to ensure the nation could publicly demonstrate its appreciation for the sacrifices and successes made by U.S. servicemembers past and present.

Georgia Credit Union Affiliates and several Georgia credit unions are participating under the banner of “Purple Heart Homes Operation: Veteran Home Renovation.”

Credit unions will identify an older veteran whose home needs improvement, such as a wheelchair ramp, grab bars, railings, or a fresh coat of paint.

Credit unions will raise funds for the projects, most of which can be completed by credit union staff and community volunteers in a day or two. The average cost of a project is $5,000.

Among the participating Georgia credit unions is Peach State Federal Credit Union in Lawrenceville, whose president/CEO, Marshall Boutwell, “proudly served” during the Vietnam War. Boutwell’s father was a career Marine officer.

Given his background and experience, Boutwell is sensitive to the needs of Vietnam War veterans both materially and emotionally.

“Korean War and Vietnam War veterans are kind of a forgotten segment of our military history,” Boutwell says. “That’s not to diminish the accomplishments of anyone else who has served. I don’t want it to be political. It’s a cultural thing. As a credit union, anytime we can help military veterans, we’re more than happy to do that.”

Boutwell also hopes to use Purple Heart Homes Operation as a teaching opportunity for younger generations. He wants to include participants in the credit union’s high school internship program as volunteers on the projects.

“We’re trying to incorporate multiple generations in this process,” Boutwell says. “I think it’s important that young people know who walked before them, especially those who suffered and sacrificed.”

Under the “Operation: Home Renovation” campaign, Cornerstone Credit Union League credit unions will undertake similar projects this summer.

Among those taking part in the initiative is Tinker Federal Credit Union in Oklahoma City, whose original field of membership was Tinker Air Force Base.

“We do a lot philanthropic work with the base, the community, and the schools,” said Dave Willis, Tinker Federal’s executive vice president/chief operations officer. “But we really felt like it was time we did something that got us back to our roots, especially for the retirees. A lot of folks retire from Tinker Air Force Base locally.”

Cornerstone Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler called Purple Heart Homes “a terrific program that recognizes when veterans come home, the most important thing many want is to return to the life they left. They want to resume their connections to home, family, church, schools, and community groups—but some need help to do so.

“Unfortunately for many,” he continues, “returning to normalcy isn’t possible or requires assistance because of traumatic injuries sustained through service of our country. Credit unions can help in many ways and will gravitate to this Purple Heart Homes opportunity because of their commitment to the communities in which they operate every day.”