How do you possibly say “thank you” to the men and women who have sustained some of the most severe injuries imaginable to protect and defend our way of life? These courageous warriors have sacrificed so much for our country, and it’s time that we show our appreciation by doing our part to help them rebuild their lives. That’s what Homes For Our Troops (HFOT) is all about, and that’s why StorageGives has added HFOT to its list of global charity organizations.
The Force Behind StorageGives
Lonnie Bickford, the force behind StorageGives, knows that veterans have a special place in the hearts of Americans. He wanted to be sure that veterans were a big part of the StorageGives mission to give back. After careful consideration, HFOT was added to the StorageGives causes because of the enormous positive impact they have on the lives of injured veterans and their families. At Homes For Our Troops, nearly 90 cents out of every dollar donated goes directly to the veterans’ programs.
HFOT has a goal of building a specially adapted home for every veteran who qualifies for one of these homes. Homes For Our Troops is a publicly funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that builds and donates adapted custom homes for severely injured post-9/11 veterans. Many of these veterans have sustained unimaginable injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), limb amputations, and partial or full paralysis. These homes are built in locations that veterans choose, and HFOT continues its relationship with veterans in order to help them rebuild their lives.
Because of the generosity of donors like StorageGives, HFOT enables injured veterans, as well as their caregivers, to rest and recover without the added stress of financial concerns. These custom homes are equipped with over 40 special adaptations that exceed ADA compliance standards. Wider halls and doorways, as well as automatic door openers, enable complete wheelchair access and hands-free accessibility when entering or exiting the home. A therapy tub eases the pain of severe injuries, and a safe room provides a place for the family to shelter from severe weather and natural disasters.
For almost two decades, HFOT has been building adapted homes for injured veterans, continually updating building materials and methods to ensure high quality. Roll under sinks, pull-down stovetops and counters, generators, and safe rooms are designed to help veterans live fulfilling, independent lives. The 2,800-square-foot homes are the perfect size for a veteran to comfortably raise a family, and energy efficiency reins in the utility costs while keeping the homes safe and cozy.
Once they receive their home, over 95 percent of veterans see a reduction in household stress. They now have the time to pursue their long-overdue education or career plans. The number of veterans who have obtained or are pursuing a degree or trade certification increased from 15 to 71 percent, and the number of spouses/caregivers is even greater, growing from 14 to 80 percent. Peace of mind fostered by eliminating safety concerns has empowered over 99.5 percent of recipients to return to the workforce, and the employment rate of spouses/caregivers has increased by over 285 percent.
Moving into a donated home enables veterans and their families to plan and save for the future. To ensure long-term success, HFOT provides three years of pro-bono financial planning to all home recipients. After receiving their homes, 57 percent increased family income and 55 percent decreased family debt. Family savings were increased by 76 percent. Not only do they attend school and obtain employment, but they launch businesses, expand their families, and accomplish life goals and dreams that they never could have imagined without HFOT.
The Arizona Self-Storage Association chose StorageGives as the AZSA charity for 2022. “When selecting a charity partner, we look for charities with both a local and national reach. Our No. 1 goal is to support charities with almost 100 percent of the money raised going to the charities. StorageGives is that charity,” says Amy Amideo, AZSA Executive Director. “I was unfamiliar with Homes for Our Troops prior to working with StorageGives. During a Zoom call with Lonnie, the conversation turned to a spotlight on this charity and the local connection to our community. I can say there wasn’t a dry eye at the end of that call.”
AZSA quickly decided to allow Bickford and StorageGives to use their conference as a platform for a fundraising event. All the money raised during the conference would be donated to a local HFOT build happening in the Queen Creek, Ariz., community for Marine Cpl. Yevgeniy “Yev” Shenker. During his first combat deployment, Cpl. Shenker lost his left leg and sustained damage to his right leg and arm when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated. He wants HFOT’s donors to know that he is incredibly grateful for their generosity. “Your kindness brings happiness to so many veterans who have been struggling since their injury,” he says. “What you all do for us is truly selfless and gracious. From the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank you enough for the gift of a safe place, a home.”
Thanks to the outpouring of generosity from conference attendees, StorageGives raised almost $30,000 for HFOT. The original goal was to raise a few thousand dollars. This outcome is far beyond what StorageGives had imagined, and the StorageGives team wants to personally thank each and every one of you who opened your hearts and your wallets to help veterans live more fulfilling lives.
“When I was first notified that the Arizona Self-Storage Association was interested in choosing StorageGives to be the grantee for the charity golf tournament in beautiful Scottsdale, Ariz., I thought it may be a good reason to leave currently 20-degree Alaska,” says Bickford. “It was very humbling for us, and we were very grateful to be considered for this. It was the first time a state association wanted to involve StorageGives as a benefactor for the charity. In talks with Homes for Our Troops, we discovered a home build approximately 10 miles from where the association event would be held. I thought ‘wow, what a great way to involve the industry as well as keep it local within Arizona.’ Talking to the Arizona board members on the golf course, we came up with the idea to auction a Ping Golf Experience. Being a storage auction guy myself, I loved this idea.”
A huge thank you to James Appleton, MiniCo Insurance Agency, for donating a custom experience with Ping. This item was first won by Darren Walborn of Walborn Ventures, who unselfishly donated the experience back to StorageGives. It was then won a second time by Ray McRae of Storage Solutions. McRae also generously donated this experience back to StorageGives, and it will be auctioned off again at a future event.
“The next day, when the tradeshow event started, the board graciously allowed me to show a video of Cpl. Shenker,” says Bickford. “I then asked the owners if they would join me to put up $1,000 to hit a donation goal of $16,000. Several owners and vendors stood up one after the other, until Shane Albers stood up, donating $10,000. The whole room broke out into a round of applause. Together, with the support of these great Arizona self-storage owners and vendors, we raised close to $30,000 altogether.”
Originally StorageGives was set to take only a percentage of every unit we hosted on StorageAuctions.com, donating to the eight charities we support. One of the things StorageGives does is feed five kids for every auctioned unit that ends on StorageAuctions.com. In 2021, StorageGives fed over 500,000 children. Facilities have the choice to give anything from 10 to 100 percent, but by giving a little bit from a lot of units, we’re able to have a larger impact on those charities. After the launch party in November, owners and operators were looking for another way to donate to StorageGives. This prompted the opening of direct donations to StorageGives. Opening up for direct donations enables StorageGives to impact its charities now more than ever.
For more information, go to StorageGives.org to learn how you can support those in need.
StorageGives would like to extend another heartfelt thank you to Shane Albers of 1784 Capital Holdings who generously donated $10,000 during the live auction. Words cannot express the gratitude for this donation.
And to all the others who donated, StorageGives wants to say thank you!
- Diane Gibson, Cox’s Armored Mini Storage Management
- Walter Brauer, CBRE
- Chris Rudel, Rudel Company
- Ted Williams, TLW Construction
- Hartley Turley, Big Dog Self Storage
- George and Joan Bell, The Bell Group
- Chris Sonne, Newmark
- Shawn Hill, The BSC Group
- Alistair Schneider, AI Lean