By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
---- — AVON, Ind. — Home is the place you lay your head at night, secure with your family around you. Ideally, it’s a haven of comfort and peace and love.
That’s exactly what Homes for Hoosier Heroes is working to create for wounded veterans – one house at a time. The home currently in progress for Wounded Warrior Tim Senkowski in Anderson is the very first project, and indeed, the inspiration, for the newly established program.
“It’s a special home for a special family,” said Bob Luenebrink of The Path Home. That’s the parent organization of the Homes for Hoosier Heroes program. The Path Home is no stranger to Indiana veterans – last year, the Avon-based not-for-profit organization helped more than 800 veterans around the state.
“This is one project out of many, many projects,” said Luenebrink. The Path Home does everything from help veterans secure their benefits to find employment and housing or prevent suicide.
The Path Home board member Jerry Prevatt said that many veterans do not really know what kind of support is available to them.
“They come home and get thrown out in the cold, cruel world and they don’t know what to do,” said Prevatt. “There are so many programs available.” The Path Home is ready to come alongside and help in whatever way they can.
Luenebrink and fellow vet Frank Parks were both service officers at two different veterans organizations when they put their heads together to establish The Path Home in 2009.
“We were trying to combine resources,” said Luenebrink. The Path Home became a 501c(3) non-profit in December 2011, enabling it to raise funds. The Path Home is directed by an eight-member board, which Luenebrink chairs, but the group depends on its network to get the jobs done.
“Every year it gets bigger,” said 49-year old Luenebrink. “It’s really a great circle of people.”
Homes for Hoosier Heroes involves a huge, dedicated network including The Indiana Blue Star, The Blue Star Mothers of Indiana, Home Depot, F.A.Wilhelm Construction Co., and Axis Architecture.
“The building trades are all on board,” said Mike Brooks of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 440. The labor members of no less than eight union locals have signed on to do the work of building Tim Senkowski’s house. The Mechanical Contractors Association of Indiana has stepped up to provide the materials and equipment.
“It’s a really good thing,” said Brooks. “When you take a guy like Tim…. What guy deserves a break better than him.” He adds, “My hope is, yes, to be involved in other projects for Homes for Hoosier Heroes. It’s the right thing to do….These people have been shot at.”
Luenebrink is quick to point out that Homes for Hoosier Heroes is one project of many. Over in Lafayette, The Path Home learned of the plight of an 89-year old World War II Navy veteran who put his life on the line in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944. On his current fixed income, the veteran got in arrears on his property taxes, and is now facing foreclosure on the home he has occupied for 63 years.
“We were able to step in and stop that,” said Luenebrink. “There’s no way this World War II vet is getting kicked out of his house.” At least not if The Path Home can help it.
The organization is urgently seeking to raise the funds to pay the back taxes and to ensure adequate housing for the aging veteran. The Path Home has already raised $1,000, and they are seeking about $8,000 to make things right for this veteran.
“Hank fought for the honor of his country during WWII…. It is now our turn to fight for the honor of this American Veteran,” Luenebrink said.
Lately, Luenebrink is working with Anderson veteran Chris Brenneman to start another branch of The Path Home that will focus on fundraising to get dogs and train them to help veterans affected by PTSD. Brenneman said that not only can the dogs provide therapeutic, companionship, or service benefits to veterans, the program will help to bring awareness and understanding about PTSD.
From coming alongside a homeless vet and helping him find a job and a place to live, to averting a suicide, or just providing a listening ear, The Path Home is eager to be there.
“It takes more than a bumper sticker to support our troops,” said Luenebrink. “Our number one mission is to make sure veterans realize they’re not alone,” said Luenebrink.
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Get involved Learn more about The Path Home, or make a tax-exempt donation, at www.thepathhome.net, or call 317-775-4481 or 812-528-1628.