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My husband Chris and I are both veterans, and we thought quite a bit about the servicemen and servicewomen serving in harms way during the recent Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. We were talking one night about how we really wanted to show our support for our troops in a significant way. We were brainstorming and we remembered how often our vacation lake home in the Adirondacks was vacant. Although it was rented quite a bit, the majority of the year, even in the nice “shoulder seasons”, it was vacant. Though we had recently sold our vacation home, we thought that perhaps other home owners would consider donating an unused or off-peak week in their vacation homes, as we would have. We sent out an email to a small sampling of vacation homeowners to see what the response would be. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that Chris and I decided right then and there to start and fund Vacations for Veterans.
We were granted 501c(3) status from the IRS as a nonprofit public charity and we began contacting homeowners to see if they would consider donating an unused week to our wounded veterans. Though we just launched in October of 2007, we already have over 150 homes from all across America and some outside of the states as well.
We are continuously inspired and tremendously touched by the response we get from people whom we ask to help our organization. For instance, I sent an email to Tony (CEO, FindRentals) after reading how active FindRentals was in the Buffalo community. His response and the response of the FindRentals team has gone above and beyond what I could have hoped for.
The homeowners who have signed up to donate time in their homes on our site have thanked us for starting this program because they all wanted to support the troops somehow and VFV gave them an opportunity to do so. I think the idea appeals because it is so simple and it costs people nothing to donate to our veterans, and yet they are giving such a valuable and wonderful gift of memories to some of the people who need it the most.
The veterans who have gone on vacations and those who have vacations to look forward to have told us how surprised and pleased they are that their fellow citizens are doing this for them. One veteran in particular wrote to me, “Peggy, I have been in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation centers for the past year. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to this week at the beach.”
VFV specifically helps veterans who are Purple Heart Medal recipients and we think it is important to note that the honor has always been bestowed upon those who have sacrificed for our country. The Purple Heart Medal is one of our most respected military medals, and the order accompanying the medal includes this phrase: "Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the Purple Heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen."
It really makes me proud to be part of all of this. It means so much that we are able to show our veterans in a tangible way that we honor and appreciate their service and sacrifice in the name of duty to our great country.