Our Commitment to Helmets to Hardhats
Comments from members of the IUEC and their experiences working with the Helmets to Hardhats program.
Local 5’s A Lift For A Vet Elevates the Quality of Life for Our American Heroes
This month we honor the heroes of our two nations through Veterans Day. We take this day to remember all that these brave men and women, and their families, sacrificed so that we may live in freedom. Our servicemen and women represent the very best of our two nations, exemplifying patriotism, selflessness and dedication. Not only do we honor those living among us, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, sacrificing their life for their love of country.
When you consider what our Armed Forces do and have done for us, it would seem impossible to ever repay them for their service. Local 5, Philadelphia, PA, however, is certainly trying.
We have all heard stories of what our service members have experienced on the battlefield, from World War I and II to present day in Iraq and Afghanistan, but what few people ever hear about are the daily struggles these same service members endure every day here at home as they try to live their life independently despite the wheelchair they are bound to from their war injuries or their aging bodies that can no longer the climb stairs in their own home.
You see, even when our injured soldiers return home or when our veterans begin to age, these men and women are still fighting battles each and every day. We just don’t hear about these kinds of battles and sadly there are few resources available to help these veterans with the services they so desperately need—and justly deserve—to live their life in dignity and independence.
This is what makes Local 5’s A Lift for Vet program not only remarkable, but in such high demand. When a young Marine leaves his family and his multilevel home for his tour of duty and returns missing a leg or paralyzed from war injuries the life he left is no longer the same life he can live. The home he once felt comfortable in is now a home he can no longer access. This is where A Lift For A Vet comes in.
The program was created by Local 5 member Mike Walsh who found his calling of helping veterans by rolling up his sleeves on projects for Homes For Our Troops. Homes For Our Troops builds and retrofits homes for injured service members. Mike found this volunteer work very rewarding as it gave him an opportunity to give back to our American heroes by using his skills as an elevator constructor. When Homes for Our Troops decided to build only one-story homes and stopped installing elevators in their projects, Mike knew he still wanted to use his elevator skills to help our troops, so with the support of Local 5, Mike created A Lift For A Vet to help retrofit existing homes to make them accessible for aging and injured veterans. That was five years ago.
Today, A Lift For A Vet is still installing stairlifts and elevators for veterans in need. What started as one to two projects a year has grown into many requests each month and as Local 5 Business Manager Ed Loomis is proud to point out, “the program has yet to turn any request down.”
Funding for the program comes primarily from the local’s golf outing, held every year on the first Saturday in May. The golf tournament has raised more and more money every year, last year raising $36,000. Every single dollar raised goes directly to A Lift For A Vet. Other funding has come from individuals who just send in contributions to the local union and people have even requested that donations be made to A Lift For A Vet in lieu of flowers to a funeral. Contributions have come in a variety of ways and certainly a variety of sizes but every dollar received makes a difference to the program and, most importantly, to those the program serves.
Although A Lift For A Vet started in Philadelphia, projects now take place all across the country thanks to help from IUEC local unions all around the U.S. A Lift For A Vet does no advertising; veterans, or more commonly their family members and friends, typically learn about the program by surfing the Internet for veterans’ assistance programs. When a call comes in for help outside of Local 5’s jurisdiction, Brother Loomis puts out a call for help to his fellow business managers, seeking IUEC volunteers to install a stairlift or elevator. Needless to say, Brother Loomis has never been turned down. Local 5 takes care of securing the equipment needed—stairlift or elevator. Most often, the equipment is new, purchased with the help of Federal Elevator, a Local 5 signatory company and the company for which Brother Mike Walsh works. Owner Rich Bilancia has been instrumental in helping A Lift For A Vet purchase the equipment needed and ensure that it is shipped to the install location. On occasion, the program will refurbish older stairlift units that have been donated but most of the time the equipment installed is brand new.
A typical residential elevator costs between $14,000- $17,000 and a stairlift costs about $2100. Whenever possible, A Lift For A Vet will try to install a stairlift instead of an elevator in order to conserve financial resources so they may serve even more people. However, when an elevator is the right piece of equipment to install, that is exactly what A Lift For A Vet does.
A Lift For A Vet has literally helped veterans of all ages from coast to coast. This summer Brother Walsh went to Boston to install a stairlift for a highly decorated 92-year-old World War II veteran, Walter Gilbert, who served in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge but could no long move between the two levels of his home. During his service, Walter received two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with an oak leaf cluster which denotes that he was wounded twice, and a Silver Star, and is only one of a few Americans to ever receive the French Legion of Honor Medal from the President of France in 2012. Walter found A Lift For A Vet through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Last year, A Lift For A Vet partnered with Local 18 to install an elevator in the home of a young Special Ops Marine who was shot down, and subsequently paralyzed, in Afghanistan. Captain Derek Herrera received the Bronze Star for valor and today works with the business and medical communities to develop medical devices to improve the quality of life for paralysis patients. The elevator in his home has allowed him to move freely between floors and live the independent and full life he has made his personal mission.
The program has even installed lifts in non-residential structures, so long as those lifts serve veterans. A Lift For A Vet installed a wheelchair lift in a boathouse in Philadelphia that services the Wounded Warriors Special Olympic Crew Team. That install was completed entirely by retirees, who oftentimes are an important part of the volunteer manpower.
A Lift for A Vet has also completed projects in Virginia, Kentucky, Texas and Florida to name only a few. However, Brother Loomis is quick to point out that the success of the program, particularly as it has spread beyond Local 5’s jurisdiction, is due in large part to the cooperation and generosity he has received from other IUEC local unions around the country.
As for the future of A Lift For A Vet, well, the program has no plans of slowing down. In fact, Brother Loomis would love to see the program be adopted by the entire IUEC. “I would like to see it be a program of the International. We are the only ones who can do this work,” he says. “These guys are national heroes. They shouldn’t have to leave their house to live in freedom.”
As we salute our men and women of the Armed Forces this month, we also salute all of our IUEC troops, especially those in Local 5, who are giving back, with their heart and their hands, to those who have given so much.
Roll Call of Honor
It is thanks to our brave servicemen and women that we are able to live in peace. They are guided by a selfless dedication to the ideals of democracy and a true love for their country.
Every day let us pause and consider all that our troops sacrifice for us so that our children and future generations may continue to live in freedom.
Thank you to every member of the Armed Forces past and present, and especially to those within our IUEC family, who answer the call to duty, proudly and faithfully.
Lance Cpl. Jack Ralph, U.S. Marines, son of Local 1 John Ralph and Silvia Ralph
Lt. Colonel Vance Kuhner, U.S. Army, brother-in-law of Local 1 member Brian Fitzgerald
Lance Cpl. Kyle Fitzgerald, U.S. Marines, nephew of Local 1 member Brian Fitzgerald
Cpl. Matthew Fitzgerald, U.S. Marines, nephew of Local 1 member Brian Fitzgerald
Lt. John Henry Milne, IV, U.S. Navy, son of Local 1 member John Milne
1st Lt. Joseph P. Allen, U.S. Army National Guard, son of Local 1 member Joseph Allen
Midshipman Peter T. Goutzounis, U.S. Navy, son of Local 1 member Ioannis Goutzounis
Lt. Daniel McCarthy Woods, U.S. Navy, son of Local 1 member Thomas Woods
Captain Anthony Sirico, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 1 member Nick Sirico
Lance Cpl. Devon Sanchez, U.S. Marines, member of Local 1
Pvt. Matthew Mahoney, U.S. Army Reserves, member of Local 1
Petty Ofc. Paul Irizarry, U.S. Coast Guard, brother of Local 1 member Keith Irizarry
1st Lt. Nicholas Cardiello, U.S. Army, member of Local 1 and son of Local 1 member Thomas Cardiello
CE1-PO1 Christopher Heller, U.S. Navy Reserve, member of Local 1
LS2-PO1 Ana Heller, U.S. Navy Reserve, wife of Local 1 member Christopher Heller
Lt. Philip A. Perillo, U.S. Navy, nephew of Local 1 member Lou Perillo, Sr. and cousin of Local 1 member Lou Perillo
Cpl. Alexander Olexson, U.S. Army, son of Local 1 member Frank Olexson and brother of Local 1 member Frank Olexson, Jr.
Airman 1st Class Michael J. Day, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 1 member Michael Day
Lance Cpl. Zachary Thomas Day, U.S. Marines, son of Local 1 member Michael Day
Lance Cpl. Nicholas Gitto, U.S. Marines, son of Local 1 member Gregory Gitto
1st Class Petty Officer E6 James Maida, U.S. Coast Guard, son-in-law of Local 1 retired member Mike Walsh
Master Sgt. James Leonard, U.S. Army National Guard, member of Local 1
Pvt. 1st Class Daniel Cascella, U.S. Army, nephew of Local 2 member Brian Black
Spc. Neil A. Dunn Jr., U.S. Army, son of Local 2 member Neil Dunn
Spc. Tyler Garst, U.S. Army, son of Local 2 member Rob Garst
Staff Sgt. Kyle Lee Hillstrom, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 2 member Charles Hillstrom
Lt. Commander Jason Perez, U.S. Navy, cousin of Local 2 member Edgardo Perez
Petty Ofc. 1st Class Bryan Prinz. U.S. Navy, son of Local 2 member Jeff Prinz
Mst. Sgt. Michael Salopek, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 2 member Evelyn Salopek
Lance Cpl. Bradly R. Samars, U.S. Marines, son of Local 2 member Ray Samars
Pvt. Jimmy Smolik, U.S. Marines, son of Local 2 member Scott Smolik
Lt. Col. John Yocum, U.S. Air Force, brother-in-law of Local 2 member David Weyer
Sgt. Dennis DiGuido, U.S. Army Reserves, son of Local 2 member Dan DiGuido
E-3 Andrew Vandenoever, U.S. Navy, son of Local 2 member Joe Vandenoever
Cpl. Steven Michael Duffie-Woodfin, U.S. Marines, grandson of Local 3 member Mike Duffie
Pvt. 1st Class Noah J. Howerton, U.S. Army National Guard, son of Local 3 member David Howerton
E-3 Gabriel Lloyd Pelate, U.S. Navy, son of Local 3 member Curtis Pelate
Cpl. Bryan K. Reese Jr., U.S. Marines, son of Local 5 member Bryan K. Reese Sr.
1st Lt. Leeihnaé Reese, Delaware Air National Guard, daughter of Local 5 retired member Bernie Reese
Lt. Kevin J. Kaczmarski, U.S. Navy, son of Local 5 member Mike Kaczmarski and brother of Local 5 member John Kaczmarski
FN Zackary A. Zipf, U.S. Navy, son of Local 5 member Joe Zipf
Joshua L. Keaney, U.S. Navy, grandson of Local 6 member John Keaney
Chief Petty Ofc. Nick Katz, U.S. Navy, son of Local 9 member Kris Katz and grandson of Local 9 member Gene Katz
2nd Lt. Ryan Bruns, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 9 member Dan Bruns
Staff Sgt. Danielle Hammer, U.S. Air Force, daughter of Local 10 member Terry Hammer
Lance Cpl. Alec Lipscomb, U.S. Marines, son of Local 10 member Dan Lipscomb
E-5 Petty Ofc. Ian A. Shultzaberger, U.S. Navy, son of Local 10 member Craig Shultzaberger
Pvt. Matthew D. Constantino, U.S. Army, son of Local 10 member Chuck Constantino
Airman 1st Class Johnathan Kohlwey, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 10 member Tim Burkheiser and nephew of Local 10 member Jason Butler
Airman 1st Class Kyle McGraw, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 10 member Stephen McGraw
Chief Petty Ofc. Travis Haas, U.S. Navy, son of Local 10 member Tim Haas
Cpt. Megan E. Lorenz, U.S. Army, sister of Local 10 member Matt Dodge
Lt. Col. Mark Baker, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 19 member John Baker
E-3 Jacob Compton, U.S. Navy, son of Local 19 member Robert Compton
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Felton, U.S. Army, nephew of Local 19 member Don Felton
Pvt. 1st Class Patrick Fleming, U.S. Army, son of Local 19 member Leonard Fleming
Chief Warrant Ofc. Dan C. Riggs, U.S. Army, son-in-law of Local 19 member Dan Sevores
E-5 Karisa Kuhn, U.S. Navy, daughter of Local 19 member Gene Kuhn
SNMA Alex Anderson, U.S. Navy, son of Local 21 member Tom Anderson
Cpl. Sylvester Cantrell, U.S. Marines, son of Local 23 member Schown Cantrell
Petty Ofc. 1st Class Joe York, U.S. Navy Seabee, member of Local 23
Pvt. 1st Class Sadie Vollendorf, U.S. Army, daughter of Local 23 member Russ Vollendorf
Aviation Electrician 2nd Class Dalton Vollendorf, U.S. Navy, son of Local 23 member Russ Vollendorf
LC Walter Lewis, U.S. Marines, nephew of Local 32 member Richard Ashe
Staff Sgt. Jason McKinney, U.S. Marines, son of Karel McKinney of Local 32
Sr. Airman Zachary J. Huebner, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 33 member John Huebner
Airman 1st Class Seth Huebner, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 33 member John Heubner
Sgt. Jordan E. Anderson, U.S. Army National Guard, son of Local 33 member Steven C. Anderson
Pvt. 1st Class Jenna K. Anderson, U.S. Army National Guard, daughter of Local 33 member Steven C. Anderson
Lance Cpl. Gearet Beghtel, U.S. Marines, son of Local 33 member Robert Beghtel
Sr. Airman Andrew T. Yole, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 35 member Tom Yole
FC2 Jacob Kler, U.S. Navy, son of Local 36 member Mark Kler
Sgt. 1st Class Vance Hickey, U.S. Army, member of Local 36
E-6 Jeremy Longto, U.S. Army National Guard, member of Local 41
Cpl. Derek M. Halpin, U.S. Marines, son of Local 41 member Jeff Halpin
Staff Sgt. Joseph Dean Binan, U.S. Army, son-in-law of Local 41 member Chris Hurley and brother-in-law of Local 41 member Robert Hurley
Tech Sgt. Nathan Epling, West Virginia Air National Guard, member of Local 48
Cpl. Robert Carson, U.S. Marines, son of Local 74 member Ron Carson
Airman 1st Class Joseph T. Walters, U. S. Air Force, member of Local 84
Cpt. Rodney Carroll, Hawaii Air National Guard, member of Local 126
Staff Sgt. Justin B. K. Kaihenui, U.S. Army National Guard, son of Local 126 member Blair Kaihenui and Sandy Kaihenui
Staff Sgt. Robert Kamikawa, Hawaii Air National Guard, member of Local 126
Sgt. Kaipo Ching, U. S. Army Reserves, member of Local 126
Master Chief Jeremy McCall, U.S. Navy, brother-in-law of Local 135 member Jeff Brinkley
Pfc. Keegan McGuirt, U.S. Marines, son of Local 135 member Scott McGuirt
Gunnery Sgt. Tyler M. Stover, U.S. Marines, son of Local 139 member
Kevin Stover and nephew of Local 16 member Dana Stover
Master Sgt. Eric M. Staff, U.S. Air Force, son of Local 139 member John Burns