Legionnaires continually provide an abundance of emotional and financial support to their fellow veterans. Army Infantryman Tim Senkowski of Anderson, Ind., who lost both his legs in October 2011 to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, is witnessing this unconditional generosity firsthand.
Senkowski will soon have a new home to accommodate his ongoing needs thanks to Homes for Hoosier Heroes , which is an initiative launched by The Path Home, a nonprofit outreach organization founded by Indiana Legionnaires Bob Luenebrink and Frank Parks that gives free home-related assistance to veterans and their families.
"Building this home for Tim Senkowski is just one year of our work at The Path Home, but Tim will live with the sacrifices that he has made for our country for the rest of his life," Luenebrink said, a member of American Legion Post 145 in Avon, Ind. "It is the least we can do for all he has done for our freedom."
The Path Home received word about Senkowski's condition from his mother when she called seeking assistance in getting his wife and two young sons to and from Walter Reed Army Medical Center - where Senkowski was undergoing treatment. The Path Home raised $2,700 to cover transportation, housing and food for the family by asking many Indiana Legion posts to provide $100 each.
"There is camaraderie from serving and a sense of always wanting to give to those who wore the uniform," said Ralph "Zoc" Zoccolillo, Indiana Blue Star Salute program chairman and member of Post 145. "Veterans fought for their country, and they still fight for the people of their country."
The Path Home also learned that Senkowski's wife, who has the autoimmune disease lupus, and his two children, one with Autism, were living in his parent's house while his parents moved in to the garage. Not only was the family crammed in a confined space, the home was not wheelchair accessible for Senkowski to come home to. "So we decided we were going to build a permanent home for them, and the plans to do so took off when we created the program Homes for Hoosier Heroes," Luenebrink said.
"I deeply appreciate everything they are doing for us," Senkowski said. "It's not only giving us a house, it's giving us a home. This will be the first stable thing my wife and I have ever had."
The Senkowski's home will be built in Anderson, Ind., on a six-acre plot. The property owner provided a significant discount due to Tim being a veteran, and Homes for Hoosier Heroes is paying the remaining $55,000 balance by conducting fundraising efforts in partnership with Indiana organizations. "We always talk about how we are going to take care of veterans when they come home, and the fundraising efforts for the Senkowski family home is a perfect example of how a community is doing it," Luenebrink said.
The organizations, including Legion posts, Blue Star Salute program, Ricker Oil Company, Briljent Corporation, Central Indiana Building Construction Trade (CIBCT) and Veterans of Foreign Wars, "are making it possible for The Path Home and Homes for Hoosier Heroes to build Senkowski and his family a new life," Parks said.
Ricker Oil, a family-owned business in Anderson, raised and donated $20,000, and CIBCT — a council group of 18 union construction crafts — is providing free material and labor.
As a Blue Star Salute sponsor, the CIBCT council heard about Senkowski through Zoccolillo. "We were absolutely all on board for building the home," said Michael Brooks, a member of CIBCT. "A lot of our members are veterans or have family members currently serving, and there's no wrong time to do the right thing and this is the right thing to help this family out."
Employees of Briljent Corp., raised $3,000 simply by hosting Crockpot luncheons, an effort led by Keith Hubbard, Briljent's sole proprietorship manager and a member of Post 86 in Alexandria, Ind. Briljent management matched what the employees raised, totaling $6,000 for Senowksi's home.
"The Crockpot luncheon is an example of how one American Legion member can lead outside of the post and get the community to support our returning veterans," Luenebrink said. "The American Legion leads the way in doing things for their family and that's why we are called The American Legion Family."