PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - In this week's edition of the KD Sunday Spotlight, we're shining a light on an organization that supports local military members and their families, as well as veterans.
Heroes Supporting Heroes is there for service members' spouses and children during times of deployment.
We spoke with the organization's CEO about what drives their volunteers to lend a hand to our country's heroes.
When a service member is far from home and their family needs help with home maintenance and repairs, Heros Supporting Heroes finds a way to get the job done.
"We do roof projects, window projects, shoveling snow, helping babysit, replacing dryers or washers that need to be replaced," said Kristi Hilbert, CEO.
Their work takes the burden off of a soldier on deployment.
"They make a difference for the service member because when you are halfway around the world, and something happens you feel completely out of control, and you feel helpless," Hilbert said.
The organization's volunteers also assist veterans by doing projects like constructing wheelchair rams.
"We're contacted a lot of times by veterans who veterans neighbors who see that they need a little bit of extra help, it's an incredibly proud community so it's not often that the service member or veteran reaches out, it's often a family member or a neighbor who sees that they're in need and maybe could use a little bit of support," Hilbert said.
We met Hilbert at the 171st Air Refueling Wing, she's a national civic leader for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force.
She said southwestern Pennsylvania is one of the largest veteran communities in the country and home of military installations for every branch of service.
Thousands of local service members are deployed around the world each year.
"When we ask service members who are deployed what can we do to help you, like can we send you care packages and things like that and they say, 'I don't need anything, I just need to know that my family is taken care of at home,'" she said.
Hilbert said they hope to bring one of their biggest events back - Operation Santa Military Family Carnival.
The last one was a few years ago, more than 1,000 military kids received items from their wish lists.
She recalled when a wife, whose husband was serving overseas during the holidays, asked for help with their heater and it turned out it was leaking carbon monoxide.
"Climatech are such good partners of ours, they replaced the entire HVAC system for that family for their house and covered the cost of it, the labor and the cost of the equipment, and when that soldier came home to meet him and to see their appreciation was just something really special," she recalled.
Heroes Supporting Heroes is a 100-percent volunteer organization and even kids donate their time to do projects through events like the West Allegheny Work Camp.
"We have around 1,200 volunteers that come out and we also have our kids club which kids ages 5 to 21 that come back all year round to help us with different projects," Hilbert said.
They rely on support from the community and partnerships with local companies and Hilbert said in the last five years, they've seen a shift away from military support in the region.
"It's really been heartbreaking, we've been struggling to get support from the community, where in the past we would get 5, 10-dollar donations that people would do on our website or purchase raffle tickets and things like that, that's really gone downhill, and a lot of veterans' organizations are suffering because of it," she explained. "So, we would love, we're trying, we're trying really hard to get our message out about the people who serve our country that live here in Pittsburgh and need our support."
Hilbert said she has always been proud to be an American and feels strongly about those who answer the call to defend the country through projects big and small.
"It's not just the person who puts the uniform on that serves, it's their entire family," Hilbert said. "The kids make sacrifices, their spouses make sacrifices and as a country, I feel like we kind of lost our appreciation for that. Nothing that we have exists without people who are willing to raise their hand in service to our country. and I feel like we need to do a better job of educating people about that and showing our appreciation in a genuine way."
If you or someone you know needs assistance from Heroes Supporting Heroes, you can fill out a request form on their website. That's also where you can make a donation or sign up to volunteer. They are always looking for people who can make repairs, paint, or landscape.
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