Operation Welcome Homes began in Door County, Wisconsin and hopes to grow with your support.
The touching family photo of Staff Sgt. Brett Bennethum, holding the hand of his four-year old daughter before he heads off to war in Iraq, is plucking at the heartstrings of many Americans. Snapped this summer by Paige’s mom Abby Bennethum, it was published October 8, 2009 in a story by Vince Lattanzio in the NBC Philadelphia news. Now, as it whirls through the blogosphere and in e-mails forwarded around the nation, it was immediately spotted by Operation Welcome Homes (OWH) co-founder Don Rubin.
“This is exactly why Operation Welcome Homes needs to go on and grow to serve more military families,” says Rubin.
Chicagoland owners of a vacation home in Fish Creek, WI, Don Rubin and his wife and co-founder, Barbara Winer realized how much of the time homes like theirs remain vacant. In 2005 they began to envision a plan where “open-occupancy” space in commercial lodging facilities, condos, time-shares and vacation homes like theirs could be provided as part of no-cost vacation packages, gifted to returning soldiers and their families in order to uplift their morale.
In 2006 they began building Operation Welcome Homes (OWH), a model program successfully launched in Door County with the support of local hospitality providers, restaurants, theaters and shops – a program that has provided vacations to more than 80 military families since Don and Barbara began it. Now they hope to take it nationwide.
This summer Don and Barbara were interviewed by Dafna Michaelson, founder and filmmaker in the “50 in 52 Journey.”
“It’s a way for those of us who are more fortunate to repay them for their service to us all,” says Rubin. “In Door County we have developed a model that can be implemented coast to coast. Now, we want to see this vision expand.”
Funding is of vital importance now, in order to sustain the Door County operations and to permit further expansion. Today, October 12 they launch their first major fundraising campaign during the, “30 Days ‘til Veterans Day.” Businesses are encouraged to continue or join in the vacation package effort by contributing lodging, food or gift certificates in the usual manner. Cash contributions from individuals and businesses are also very important to cover increased operating expenses. Door County businesses may contact local OWH coordinator, Stephen Kastner at 920.839.9639 for further information. Anyone can contribute on-line at OperationWelcomeHomes.org or send contributions to:
Operation Welcome Homes, Inc.
P.O. Box 595
Highland Park, IL. 60035
DesignWise Films and Video Production is creating a series of ongoing OWH fundraising videos featuring a variety of project supporters including War Veterans, OWH founders and staff members that will be published on YouTube and other video sharing sites, as as well as on their own Website. Operation Welcome Homes, Inc. is a Federally certified 501(c)3 organization and your contributions are fully tax-deductible.