The Hinesville Branch of Veterans United Home Loans surprised five local non-profits this past week as they distributed checks for $10,000 to each organization.
Hinesville Branch Manager Tim Spears and his co-workers, Jaime Phillips, Torrey Gray, Kacee Davis and Mike Harland met with representatives from The Liberty County Homeless Coalition, Manna House, The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 46, K-9 Battle Buddies and the Liberty County Armed Services YMCA during appointment set up Monday through Thursday.
The organizations were under the impression that Spears and his group were there to learn about the services they provide.
Instead Spears and company surprised each organization by whipping out a check for $10,000 in the middle of the meetings.
“Our company as a whole has its own foundation, the Veterans United Foundation,” Spears said before their first check giveaway Monday. “And 92 to 94 percent of all the employees give one percent of their salaries to the foundation.”
Spears said their corporate office is located in Columbia, Missouri. Their headquarters make generous donations to veteran organizations and have helped build adaptive housing and chapels for those in needs.
“They give millions of dollars away up there,” Spears said. “And they wanted to push that out to the branch networks. We try and do things here locally to raise funds…but nothing at the magnitude that they do. This year they decided to give each branch $50,000 and allow each branch to select five charities who would get $10,000 each.”
Spears said their other branch in Savannah will be conducting their giveaway next week.
On Monday they met with the Liberty County Homeless Coalition.
“You’ve just covered our budget for the year,” Jim McIntosh, who heads the organization said after opening up a huge box and finding an equally large check inside. “We are extremely grateful. This is more funding than we’ve ever had…this is terrific. Thank you so much. This will allow us to actually go back in our ability (to help).”
McIntosh said accounts funds have been low forcing them to cut back on the amount of assistance they were able to provide to clients. With the donation from Veterans United they will be able to increase the amount of help.
Tuesday morning the group met with and learned about K-9 Battle Buddies. The organization rescues dogs from local shelters. The dogs are trained and matched up with a veteran in need, most suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or seizures. Together the veteran and service dogs improve overall quality of life.
Chief Operating Officer Sammy Espada said without his service dog Shadow, he might not survived. After receiving the check, Espada became emotional saying the donation will make an immediate impact.
“We have about seven or eight veterans right now that we couldn’t get them a dog,” Espada said noting it was due to lack of funds. “But now with this money we will be able to call them up and tell them to come get their dog.”
Founder and CEO Patricia Durham was left speechless.
“Wow and thank you,” she said. “It’s a huge blessing and this is going to allow us to help so many more beterans. It is going to save lives…a lot of lives.”
On Wednesday the group surprised the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 46 in the morning and Manna House later in the afternoon.
“I did not know this was coming. I thought we would ask them to help us with donations…but not get $10,000…. It touched my heart and has brought me to tears,” Joe Feagin Senior Vice Commander of the DAV said.
Chapter Commander Stan Claridy said they have 20-30 veterans that come in every month that need direct assistance with housing. Due to budget constraints he said there are times the DAV has to turn people away.
“And now we will have the opportunity to be able to assist them and not keep sending them somewhere else,” he said. “Never in a million years…you know it is hard to go out there and ask people for money. But these guys right here really came through.”
At Manna House, Rev. Katrina Deason jumped for joy, praised God and danced around her office for a few minutes after receiving the donation. Manna House has been serving food to those in need since 1989. They serve nearly two tons of food per year.
“This is like two months of our operating expenses and it is going to keep us from being right on the edge,” Deason said. “We do what we do because we have a heart for it, but the funding is so important because you can’t do it without it.”
Deason said she was grateful to the Veterans United group.
“When an organization comes along like this and helps us out…It really changes the year for us. We are praying people. We know how to believe for it to come. But when it comes its Hallelujah time,” she said and danced again”
Thursday the group visited the YMCA.
“Oh my gosh,” Branch Director Carol Tanrath said before her eyes teared up. “Wow…I cannot thank you guys enough. Our branch does so much for wounded warriors and we have so many veterans that come in here every day. You have no idea how many lives you are touching with this. And everything they we’ve been trying to accomplish this year for those citizens…those in need...this is going to make such a difference.”
Military Program Director Doni Brezenski cried as well and said most of the veterans and soldiers they serve come from the Wounded Warrior Transition Battalion.
“Those are the active duty soldiers that are getting ready to get out...we serve them by having them come in, free of cost…and they get the therapy that they need, especially in our pool,” she said.
Brezenski covered her mouth again as she tried to collect her thoughts and wiped away tears.
“It was amazing and definitely something that I will never forget,” Spears said after the week of giving. “As a Christian you are always taught that it is better to give than to receive. And I got to experience that this week. I am so happy to work for a company that feels the same way that I do and actually puts their money where their mouth is, literally. It was definitely a life-changing experience and I’m just very happy that we were able to help these organizations and our community that are well-deserving of it.”
Spears said his group plans to stay in touch with the organizations and help them network to better serve the community in need.
For more information about Veterans United Home Loans visit: https://www.localvaloans.com/branch/hinesville/