2020 has been a tumultuous year in many ways, but Budget Blinds® was honored to be part of seeing 23 Veterans and their families settle into new, specially adapted, mortgage-free Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) homes. With masks, safe distancing, and even virtually, the HFOT mission of building homes to help post-9/11 severely injured Veterans recover and rebuild their lives has steadily gone forward. And Budget Blinds, supported by our manufacturing partner, Springs Window Fashions who donates the blinds, was right there, as our local franchise owners installed our exclusive Signature Series® faux wood blinds in each of the 23 homes this year, all across the country.
The magic of being in an HFOT home for the holidays
Especially at the holidays, we look to home for warmth, comfort, and security. We take for granted the comforts of home and can’t fathom how life would be if your house was fighting you at every turn. For Veterans in wheelchairs and on prosthetics, that is exactly what can happen. Stairs, carpet, raised thresholds, and narrow doorways common in traditional homes can limit the ability to live in the whole house. Safety and comfort become factors when cabinets, stove tops, sinks, and showers are challenging to reach. The over 40 special adaptations of the HFOT homes eliminate these problems, creating an environment where severely injured Veterans can enjoy the holidays just like everyone else.
- One-story living means access to the kids’ bedrooms to read them a story and tuck them in at night.
- Roll-under countertops in the kitchen makes baking holiday cookies a definite possibility.
- Total wheelchair accessibility makes every room where fun happens available, including the kitchen, living room, and wherever all the presents are hidden.
- Whipping up hot chocolate and popcorn for the family during movie night is easy-peasy.
- Choose what mobility is most comfortable while participating in holiday activities—games, gift wrapping, cooking together, and even a snowball fight.
It’s been another exciting year as Budget Blinds franchise owners continue to make dreams come true by participating in the Budget Blinds/HFOT partnership, bringing Veterans home to comfort, safety, freedom and independence.
Meet Army Sergeant First Class Gabriel “Gabe” Monreal
Sergeant First Class Gabriel Monreal came from a “military rich” heritage with his dad and uncles regaling his growing up years with stories that steered Gabe to choose the Army as a career. He was able to make that dream come true and he retired in 2017 with 20 years of service, despite having received severe injuries in 2010 when he was hit by an 82mm recoilless rifle round on his third combat deployment in Afghanistan. His left leg was amputated, and he received injuries to his abdomen, thighs, and forearms. During years of recovery and physical therapy, Gabe continued active service at Army North and finally as a firearms training simulator (FATS) instructor at Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, teaching active duty and retired Service Members how to move and shoot again with their prosthetics and injuries.
Gabe, his wife, Rachel, and their children, Matius, Layla, Noah, and Izabella, lead an active lifestyle, including helping other military families through Operation Comfort, a local organization that offers adaptive sports programs for injured Veterans. He also enjoys his motorcycle, skydiving, barbequing, and yard work. Married 22 years and almost half of that time challenged by his injuries, this home is a blessing with wider doorways and plenty of space to move freely in his wheelchair. Rachel shares, “The kids and I are excited to see Gabe finally comfortable. Living in a barrier-free environment will give me peace of mind knowing Gabe feels secure in a space where he can just relax.”
They chose Spring Branch, TX, for the school district and it’s where he and Rachel want to retire. Presented with the keys to the new specially adapted HFOT home on Veterans Day, Gabe says, “HFOT opens the door of all doors for the future. This gift not only impacts my wife and me, but more importantly, my kids, and our family’s generations to come.”
Linda and Jeffrey Schield, franchise owners of Budget Blinds serving North San Antonio, continue their unfailing support of Homes for Our Troops and our military by measuring and installing custom blinds in Gabe’s new home. This is certainly not their first rodeo and Linda shares, “We had the privilege of completing our 18th HFOT home at the Monreal residence. The HFOT program allows us to give back to the military community, which is really strong here in Military City, USA. Our community is not only full of active military, but many military retirees want to make the San Antonio area their last post and build their forever homes here. I think that’s why we have been blessed with so many HFOT projects in our area!” Thank you, Linda and Jeffrey!
Marine Staff Sergeant Dominic Fernandez
Growing up in a rough neighborhood, Marine Staff Sergeant Dominic Fernandez sought a different kind of life and joined the Marines. After his first tour in Iraq, he reenlisted and decided this was his career choice. But after about 11 years, in Afghanistan in 2010, he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) during an enemy attack, resulting in the loss of his right leg above the knee, damage to his back, and neuropathy in his right arm with ongoing pain and numbness.
Dominic describes his life as “high-maintenance,” trying to be the best husband and father to his wife and four kids while conserving his energy to make it through the challenges of each day in their current three-story house. The new specially adapted, mortgage-free home from HFOT will literally change his world. The no-barriers open floor plan will allow him to be off the painful prosthetic and in his wheelchair while he goes through his days caring for his family. He shares, “It will be like a dream. All the space, one level. And the shower … getting to sit down, not having to crawl into it. This home will allow me to take on more tasks throughout the day, like more hours in class, and make it easier for me to care for my youngest son. Having so many accommodations lessen the burdens that affect my life.” Originally from San Antonio, Dominic chose Lakeville, Minnesota, for the new home. It’s the area where his wife grew up, it has an excellent school system, and he enjoys the four seasonal changes.
Dominic learned about HFOT from another home recipient and he and his family are amazed that there are organizations like HFOT willing to build them a forever home. “HFOT’s donors don’t know us, but they help give us the ultimate gift of freedom and independence,” he says. “HFOT is phenomenal. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’m in awe of how they continue to even want to do this. For them to do that and to help people they don’t know, that’s the ultimate love.”
This is the first HFOT home for franchise owner Mike Robole of Budget Blinds of Southern Twin Cities. He willingly donated time and expertise to measure and install faux wood blinds in the home for Dominic and his family. Mike also spoke virtually at the Key Ceremony when the home was presented, welcoming and honoring this deserving Veteran. He shares, “I am thankful to everyone for allowing me to help make this house a home for SSGT Fernandez and his family. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to give back to someone who has given so much for all of us and this country. I wish all the best to the Fernandez family in their new home!”
Hear Dominic share his story by clicking here.
Bring the magic home with new window treatments
Make this holiday memorable with custom window treatments from Budget Blinds that can transform your home into the perfect sheltering-in-place haven. Create beautiful rooms and favorite cozy corners with colors, styles, and patterns that speak to your inner design diva and enliven your senses.
Call 866-525-8054 today or go online at www.budgetblinds.com to find a Design Consultant near you and schedule a free, in-home or virtual* consultation to discuss blinds, shutters, shades and drapery designs that will take you beautifully through the holidays. It is the season for giving, so give yourself a gift that will keep on giving year after year!
- To make a donation to HFOT, visit We Proudly Support Our Troops.
- Take a 360-degree home tour of a specially adapted HFOT home by clicking here.
- For more HFOT support options, visit Ways To Support Our Mission.
*Virtual consultations may not be available at every location