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HSH now has a home!

The newly merged McDonald United Methodist Church (UMC) congregation gifted the properties formerly owned by Noblestown UMC to Heroes Supporting Heroes!    In addition to the church building, this gracious gift includes the rental property (former parsonage), as well as a vacant property, adjacent to the church building, that they plan to convert to parking or storage for equipment.

Besides being able to have a location as their home base, they also hope to remodel the building so they can provide space for (1) other non-profit startups (2) veterans and other residents on a job search who need internet access (2) community meetings (2) hosting large group meals to honor veterans and senior citizens (3) youth group activities like faith-based and scouting (4) adult social groups such as quilters or civic groups, and the list goes on!

To do all of that, HSH has begun to plan an extensive remodel to convert the Worship Area to a level surface, add office space, and make needed changes so that the new HSH Office is compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

HSH is excited about this new chapter in our non-profit organization and look forward to sharing updates about the remodel in the coming months!


Like-minded groups unite to perform home repairs
By Marsha Keefer

Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 12:15 am
A shared mission to help those in need fostered a partnership of two local groups that this summer will launch a week-long "blitz" to repair 75 to 80 homes in western Allegheny County.

A chance meeting at an exercise facility united like-minded volunteers to combine their efforts to assist homeowners in Oakdale and Findlay, North Fayette and Moon townships who are physically or financially unable to complete minor home repairs.

Heroes Supporting Heroes and West Allegheny Workcamp will join forces the week of June 22 to paint, repair porches and steps, scrub interiors, build wheelchair ramps and perform other assorted jobs at no charge to qualifying applicants, said John Lee, president and founder of HSH.

Since its inception in August 2012, the nonprofit HSH has been providing similar aid to families of active-duty military, as well as disabled and wounded veterans. Recently, assistance also was offered to senior citizens.

This year, the West Allegheny Ministerial Association teamed with Group Mission Trips, a ministry founded in Colorado in the 1970s that affords teenagers a faith-based opportunity to travel the United States on mission trips to help those in need. For the first time, Group Mission Trips is hosting West Allegheny Workcamp in the West Hills area, one of more than 40 workcamps it sponsors annually.

One day while working out, Lee, a government program analyst, ran into Josh Lutz, son of Jeff Lutz, who is co-founder of West Allegheny Workcamp. After learning what HSH does, Josh suggested that Lee and his father meet. That's when leaders of the two groups, both start-ups, Lee said, realized the similarities of their overall objectives and decided to work together.

Last fall, HSH and WAW agreed to merge to broaden the scope of their community assistance with the ministerial association as fiscal sponsor. In June, an estimated 400 teenagers and adult crew leaders from across the country will travel here on a Group Mission Trip to perform the low-skill, high-labor home repairs.

"We won't have many local teens," Lee said. "The bulk will be from other states."

The allure for most teens, he said, is to travel to mission sites outside the local area.

"Local kids here, they want to go to other states," Lee said.

Work crews typically have five teens supervised by one adult, he said. Participants pay their own way to attend, but are provided with food and lodging -- usually in local churches, schools or community centers -- during their stay.

While here, campers will lodge at West Allegheny Middle School, said Donald Steward, executive director and CEO of HSH and co-founder of WAW.

"Classrooms will become bedrooms that week," he said, with campers, separated on different floors by gender, sleeping on air mattresses or cots.

A fundraising goal of $40,000 would cover the costs of supplies and building materials. So far, more than half has been raised, Steward said. Anyone wishing to contribute can mail checks, payable to West Allegheny Workcamp, to West Allegheny Workcamp, P.O. Box 787, Imperial, PA 15126.

Those wishing to be considered for home repairs need to complete an application form available at Applicants must be homeowners who live within a 30-minute drive from West Allegheny Middle School, Lee said, meet need requirements and be present when the work is being done.

A site survey team will visit each home for an evaluation to assure that it's a safe environment and that repairs can be accomplished by the teens within a week. Some projects that require more skill could be considered and completed by HSH.

Ninety percent of the applicants are senior citizens, Steward said, who can no longer do the work themselves or don't have families nearby to assist.

Already, WAW has received 125 applications. Deadline is April 1.

The week's worth of work donated to WAW translates into about $65,000 in labor, Steward said.

The impetus for HSH was a result of Lee's military deployment overseas the past few years. He's

served his country 18 years, six in the Marine Corps and most recently as an Air Force senior

master sergeant with the 911th Civil Engineering Corps based in Moon Township. Lee has served six tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tours have lasted anywhere from six months to two years.

When servicemen and -women are deployed, spouses and children back home often struggle, Lee said, not only from the stress of knowing a loved one is in a dangerous and hostile environment, but trying to keep up with running and maintaining a household.

"You come back home and find out the wife and kids are struggling, trying to maintain their sanity," he said, as house repairs and yard work pile up.

Initially, Lee and his wife, Sheri, assumed the role of helping fellow military families by doing "simple stuff," he said, like cutting grass, raking leaves, trimming trees and cleaning gutters.

Soon, other airmen at the base wanted to help, too, and that's how HSH was formed. Now, about 20 are on the "Key Spouse" list to volunteer when a call or email goes out for assistance with various household repairs like fixing a washing machine or replacing a water heater.

Since the program started almost two years ago, HSH has assisted with 48 projects, said Lee.

Ultimately, he said, HSH wants families to know that "we've got your back. We're here for you."

(excerpt from Heroes Supporting Heroes by Doug Hughey, Allegheny West Magazine, West Allegheny Edition; June 2013)

When Air Force Master Sergeant John Lee was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 with the 911th Civil Engineering Corps based in Moon, his wife, Sheri, had plenty of people offering to help with whatever they could during John’s seven-month deployment.

Sheri knew, however, that there was only so much others could do, and that there was only so much she would think to ask of them. A certain pride that goes with being a member of a military family, and an unsaid agreement that keeps families from sharing their day-to-day struggles with deployed loved ones, often means that they end up going it alone.

“There’s an understanding that families don’t want to heap all their troubles on you and add any more stress to a stressful situation,” says John, who, before joining the Air Force, served with the Marine Corps for six years.

As a Marine, John served in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and in four tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After John returned home from his most recent deployment, it took about another full year before he, Sheri, and their two young children, Caleb and Lily, felt as though they were really back to life as normal, says Sheri. The experience got them wondering what other families must go through, and what, if anything, they could do for them...more



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