Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit that for 16 years has provided mortgage-free homes to military veterans, announced today it is seeking to expand the nationwide program to police, firefighters and other emergency first responders.
The move to expand its mission to support first responders – a decision unveiled the day before the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks – came as the organization marked a milestone 300th home, gifted to Army veteran Jonathan Merchant. He had just returned from service in Bosnia when he suffered a quadriplegic spinal cord injury in a car accident.
Merchant, an Army specialist stationed at Texas’ Fort Hood, has not let that 1999 crash define him. Doctors told him if he survived, he could not expect to be self-sufficient and would have a limited life. Instead, he regained some feeling in his arms, becoming a competitive cyclist, swimmer and triathlete.
He was the first quadriplegic to finish the half ironman distance in a race sponsored by Challenged Athletes Foundation and he regularly takes part in similar events. A certified life coach, he now seeks to inspire others facing adversity.
Building Homes for Heroes founder, businessman Andy Pujol, said the courage and sacrifice of veterans is inspirational – as has been the work and dedication to community by emergency first responders. Adding that group to the program reflects the organization’s commitment to honoring those who serve their country.
The organization, incorporated in New York, filed its plans to expand the home program with the state attorney general’s Charities Bureau. While Building Homes for Heroes cannot currently accept donations to benefit first responders, it expects to receive state approval soon, allowing fundraising for the new program by the end of the year.
“Our goal will always still be to gift, modify and construct one home, every 11 days, on average,” Pujol said. “That will never change. But our organization was founded with the goal of supporting our heroes who sacrificed so much to defend our freedom. That relates to not only our nation’s veterans, but also our heroic police officers, firefighters and other emergency first responders who proudly don their uniform and risk all to keep us safe.”
Next year, Building Homes for Heroes hopes to gift its 343rd home around Sept. 11, 2023, in honor of the 343 members of the New York City Fire Department who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
At Saturday’s ceremony, Merchant, 45, and his wife, Stephanie received an ADA-modified, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home constructed by award-winning Texas homebuilder Highland Homes in partnership with Hillwood, a Perot company.
Situated in Pecan Square, a Hillwood Communities development in Northlake, it is the second home in the Building Homes for Heroes’ campaign, for the fifth consecutive year, to gift, modify and construct 11 homes in 11 weeks, marking the anniversary of Sept. 11 and Veterans Day.
“This unbelievable gift is more than just a home,” Merchant said. “It’s the freedom financially to start a family, physically to be able to grow our family. It’s the key to making dreams in our heart come to fulfillment and doing for us something we couldn’t do on our own.”
Merchant retired from the Army after three years of service. He received many honors, including the Army Achievement Medal, NATO Medal, Hero of the Liberation Award, the Basic Training Badge and the Expert Infantry Badge.
After the ceremony, a celebration is scheduled within Pecan Square for the entire community in recognition of Building Homes for Heroes’ 300th home. Pujol, Perot and other dignitaries will be in attendance.
Building Homes for Heroes
Building Homes for Heroes builds and gifts mortgage-free homes, and completes home modifications, for veterans and their families, and provides further services along their road to recovery to help them live a promising and fulfilling life ahead. The organization said 95.19% of every dollar donated in 2021 went directly to its mission, the 10th straight year reaching a program rating of at least 93%. It also received a perfect 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for six straight years, including a 100% in transparency and accountability. See www.buildinghomesforheroes.org.
Hillwood, a Perot company, is a premier commercial and residential real estate developer, investor and advisor of properties throughout North America and Europe. With a diverse portfolio of properties and home to many of the world’s leading companies, Hillwood is committed to bringing long-term value to our customers, partners and the communities we serve. Through its Communities division, Hillwood has delivered nearly 40,000 single-family lots in 103 master-planned communities across 13 states. These communities continue to raise the bar in terms of quality, innovation, and the unmistakable sense of community that sets each property apart. See www.hillwoodcommunities.com
Founded in 1985, Highland Homes is an employee-owned company that builds nearly 4,000 homes across Texas each year and is among the largest and most trusted single-family new home builders in the country. A commitment to excellence has earned the company many industry awards, including consistent high rankings by J.D. Power and Associates. See highlandhomes.com