Pat Bowler, of Naperville, realized a few years ago that veterans are the most reluctant group to ask for help.
“Vets are the last people to ever raise their hands and say they need help,” said Bowler, the president and a founding member of Naperville Responds For Our Veterans. “Their job is to help others, and that’s why a lot of our guys are homeless: because they don’t ask.”
Bowler and several other community members came to the realization five years ago that the veterans administration wasn’t meeting a certain need of veterans: upkeep of their homes. In response, they rallied construction-related businesses to help rectify the need.
“As veterans get older, it’s harder for them to take care of their homes,” Bowler said.
The businesses that comprise Naperville Responds For Our Veterans include builders, real estate agents and financiers.
A variety of businesses and organizations have donated resources to help veterans as well. They include: the Rotary Club, Ss. Peter and Paul Church, as well as realty companies such as Baird & Warner and Ryan Hill.
“It’s incredible how much people believe in what we do,” said Bowler, who works in the construction business.
NRFOV helps veterans all over the area, and has fulfilled a variety of needs. They have remodeled bathrooms and built ramps for veterans in wheelchairs. NRFOV fixed the roof of one home where it had leaked so badly that the ceiling fell down into a room.
They also will help a spouse if the veteran has died. Often, the wife is also a senior citizen and can’t manage the house by herself. Benefits have transferred to her because of her husband’s service.
The people behind NRFOV have found that families of veterans are grateful for the help. And the group looks forward to the day when they can do something more.
“We would love to provide a home for a disabled vet, but we don’t have the resources just to buy something,” Bowler said.
The fundraising Strength and Honor Breakfast on Thursday will raise funds for the organization’s mission to help veterans.
Allen J. Lynch, a medal of honor recipient who served in Vietnam, will be the keynote speaker at Thursday’s fundraiser. He has continued to serve veterans through the VA and at the state level.
“We’re always looking for veterans who have an inspiring story,” said Warren Dixon, the public relations chairman for NRFOV who works in real estate. “Stories like that bring awareness to what men and women in service do.”
There are multiple ways to get involved with NRFOV. People can donate but also can give time to help veterans.
While the organization always seeks manual labor, it also uses professional resources for specific trades, including roofers and electricians.
Financial donations are especially important to pay the contracting of these kinds of services or needed permits.
NRFOV always needs people and businesses that can provide materials and services as well.
And the organization needs people who can help fundraise and work events.
“There is an avenue for everyone to do something outside construction,” Dixon said.
Finally, if someone knows a veteran who needs help, they can visit the group’s website to suggest they get help.
And sometimes, points out Jeff Lincoln, the fundraising chairman of NRFOV, those who receive help donate after receiving help themselves. Lincoln joined the group partly because his father was in the Air Force.
“A lot of them don’t want help,” he said echoing Bowler’s thoughts. “(Yet) they are proud but thankful when we help them.”