Ivan and Shavonne Redhorn, along with their six children, were supported by The American Legion's Temporary Financial Assistance program after losing their home and possessions to a fire in Great Falls, Mont. Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Photo by Lucas Carter/The American Legion.

American Legion helps family of eight recover from house fire

Nothing was amiss when Ivan Redhorn left his home with his two oldest children late afternoon on Jan. 10, in Great Falls, Mont. When he returned a short time later from dropping his children off at youth camp and picking up his wife, Shavonne, from work, he was greeted at the front door to a home filled with black smoke. There was a fire in the basement.

“I felt like life just crumbled. I didn’t know where to turn,” said Ivan, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a combat medic. “We sat in our car and watched the fire take over.”

No one was home when the fire started. However, Ivan and Shavonne, along with their six children, lost all of their possessions.

The American Red Cross provided shelter the first night since the Redhorns recently moved to Great Falls and were hours away from their parents in Browning, Mont. It was through Red Cross that Ivan was informed of who he could turn to for further assistance – The American Legion.

The Redhorns immediately called American Legion Post 341 Commander and Adjutant Kim Kay McCarty Martin. After meeting in person and identifying their needs, Martin helped the family fill out an American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) application and provided a roof over their heads until permanent housing was available. “Once I knew they had these kids we didn’t want them being cold, so I called the department (for support until the TFA grant arrived),” Martin said.

Post 341 and the Department of Montana paid for temporary housing for a week “so we weren’t staying in our car,” Shavonne said. “(The American Legion) was a blessing.” While living in temporary housing, the Redhorns found a new rental home and soon moved in; the TFA grant paid for the security deposit.

“I know that (The American Legion) cares enough to help us in any and every aspect of our life. Having turmoil like this, The American Legion was almost like a hero for me,” Ivan said. “The American Legion eased our financial burden and worry with their assistance to help us.”

TFA is National Commander Denise H. Rohan’s fundraising project. TFA awards cash grants to American Legion-eligible veterans, with minor children in the home, to help meet the cost of shelter, food, utilities, clothing and medical expenses in a time of need. Donate to the Commander's Charity Fund to support TFA here.

“With TFA, you know (the veteran and their family) needs are going to be taken care of,” Martin said.

Besides support from TFA, Martin knew the Redhorn family still needed financial assistance to recover everything they lost in the fire. So Post 341 did something they’ve never done before – held a fundraiser.

“Some of us veterans have been in their spot. Not because of a house fire but because of being financially strapped,” Martin said. The idea of holding a fundraiser was like, ‘Oh yeah, we have to help them.’ Our thinking was, ‘You’re a veteran, we’re going to help you.’”

Post members went to local businesses that supported veterans in the past to ask for donations in food and for the silent auction. Because Post 341 doesn’t have a home, the fundraiser was held at a local church where post members were able to make dinner in the kitchen (Indian tacos on frybread and spaghetti with homemade sauce) and hold a 50/50 raffle. The fundraiser also served as an opportunity for Martin to share with the community about TFA and how it can support other eligible veterans in need.

“TFA here (in Great Falls) is by word of mouth so hopefully it will keep spreading, and we’ll be able to help more veterans that are financially strapped,” she said.

In the end, Post 341’s fundraiser raised $1,500 for the Redhorn family.

“This was our way of giving back … being able to provide for a veteran,” Martin said.

Ivan and Shavonne used the money to purchase clothes, beds, bedding and other household furniture.

“We thank The American Legion for everything they have done for our family,” Ivan said. “The American Legion is now a part of our family.”

Ivan joined The American Legion after initially meeting with Martin. She shared who The American Legion is and how Post 341 serves its community and asked him to be a part of it all. Through his experience as a Blackfeet Tribal veterans service officer in Browning, Ivan said he hopes to become an American Legion service officer to help his fellow comrades as his way of giving back.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Ivan said. “If my parents were here, they would be very thankful. Just knowing The American Legion came and assisted their son, their soldier in a time of need.”