Providing Hope and Home
Renewal by Andersen helps refurbish a home for a homeless Army vet and her family in Alexandria, VA
Raised in a family of 11 kids, Yetta Rushford (design consultant; Renewal by Andersen of the Capital Region) grew up in a home where giving, sharing, and helping out were second nature. “It was instilled in us, ‘do good; be good,’” he explains.
30 years ago, he and his twin brother started a small foundation, Dreams Come True, to give away toys to kids at the holidays—complete with a visit from Santa and his elves (roles which eventually were assumed by the brothers’ own grown kids). And for the last two years, they have been working with the National Institute of Health's Operation Happy Holidays program to bring gifts to children in the hospital—and their parents. “We get the gifts the kids want, of course, and then also bring in stuff for the parents, too.”
The Rushford family is also a military family—Yetta’s son Kyle is a second lieutenant in the Marine Corp—and so Yetta knew he wanted to be able to give back to others who had served or families of those who have served.
“I was talking to my boss (Bill Acton, sales manager at Renewal, who is also a veteran), and it really reinforced just how much people give for their country…and how difficult it can be for them on the other side.
You know, a lot of folks who serve…they go into their service at their peak. They’re well-trained, they’re in great shape. They’ve been prepared to handle their roles at the highest level. And they don’t always come back that way. The transition back to civilian life is hard. I wanted to find a way to help—to see if we can’t help make that transition easier, better for them.”
A news piece on a local nonprofit, Operation Renewed Hope, provided the connection Rushford was looking for. “Their quote was ‘We want to work as hard as we can to put ourselves out of business.’ And as a sales guy, I thought ‘well, now THAT’S a terrible business model.’ But from a volunteer standpoint, it’s exactly what you want, right?”
A Washington D.C.-based organization dedicated to ending veteran homelessness, Operation Renewed Hope Foundation was founded in 2011 by retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Deb Snyder.
A decorated combat veteran with 21 years of service in the Aviation Branch as a helicopter pilot, Snyder retired from the Army in 2009, and took a position with the Department of Defense. Every day on her way to work, Snyder would run into a veteran living on the streets, and she knew she had to do something about it. “When I found out how many veterans were homeless, I was blown away. One out of every five members of the homeless population are vets. More than 68,000 veterans were living on the streets. We shouldn’t have homeless vets. It’s a fixable problem.”
And so she founded the Operation Renewed Hope Foundation (ORHF). The organization is dedicated to securing affordable stable housing for vets and their families, as well as providing support services such as access to transportation and medical and dental care, all of which help remove some of the barriers to finding (or retaining) housing.
Since its inception in 2011, ORHF has helped more than 800 veterans and their families access permanent, high-quality housing in the D.C. metro area. “At night when I lay down, I see a ceiling over my head,” Snyder says. “I think of these vets who see the inside of a car or a tent. It’s really nice to see someone go from living in a shelter or in a vehicle and see them happy.”
Rushford began volunteering his time and services with the group in 2016, and now serves as a the group’s corporate liaison—in essence, helping connect ORHF with local businesses and service providers who can help with current projects, contributing goods, services, money, or product.
One of ORHF’s most recent projects was the purchase and refurbishment of a 5-bedroom home in Alexandria, Virginia, to be donated to a homeless veteran and her family. The new homeowner, a former Army medic with 6 young children, had been moving from shelter to shelter as she worked to find permanent housing.
The 1960s-era home was in a good area, but needed some major improvement projects to make it suitable for the family. ORHF orchestrated those repairs, working with a number of business who donated materials and labor, including a kitchen remodel, complete home furnishings and new paint, carpet, and windows.
“Deb called me to tell me about this project they were going to start,” Rushford says. “It was going to be a total gut job, for a family living in a shelter in Richmond. I’d heard how just moving children into a nicer neighborhood and living situation can dramatically change their futures so I immediately wanted to get involved.
“And, of course,” he smiles, “I knew where we could find a good replacement window company.”
Rushford approached the management team about the home, to see if they would be interested in the job. “Yetta was going to be his own salesman,” says General Manager Anthony Bolton. “He came to us and said he wanted to order the windows and arrange tech measure and install and that he was going to personally cover the costs. He told us about the project, and we were blown away.”
Continues Bolton, “This is a cause very close to Yetta’s heart. He donated his sales bonus to the organization and makes regular contributions—not just financial ones, but ones of time and effort. Helping vets, giving back to those who have served… that’s something we all can, and should, do. We told him that Renewal by Andersen of the Capital Region was more than happy to help—and that’d we’d donate the windows and the labor.”
All told, RbA of the Capital Region donated 13 custom-manufactured windows, as well as all of the labor and installation, playing a key role in helping make this like-new house a home for a deserving veteran and her family.
“We’re so grateful for Renewal by Andersen windows and all those who donated their time and money to make this happen,” says Snyder. “Our veterans and their family members are extremely appreciative of the phenomenal support. We look forward to a continued partnership as we work to end veteran homelessness.”
“We couldn’t have taken it to this level without the support of Anthony and Tom (Costello, Capital Region operations manager). They jumped at the chance, and really ran with it,” says Rushford.
He continues, “Back when my son was preparing for the naval academy, we talked to a fellow who was a SEAL, and he said something that resonated with both of us…he believed that each of us had a duty to serve out country. For him, that was the military. But he said there are myriad other ways—whether that’s the Peace Corps, or being a doctor or teacher or volunteering. That stuck with me, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to support an organization like ORHF…and to be working for a company where something like that matters, and is a part of the culture. It’s a great feeling to be a part of a company that lives and breathes ‘do good; be good.’”