It was a move that she was dreading. Tina was married to a Marine and had lived on many military bases around the country. She and her kids were accustomed to moving and adjusting.
This time, the orders were to Garden City, New York, just outside of New York City. New York was too expensive for a family with four kids. New York was too congested for a family that had been living in North Carolina. New York was not a military community.
That was in 2007 and Tina had already been working (unpaid) for Hope For The Warriors® since the organization began in 2006. With the move came the opportunity to expand the young organization beyond North Carolina.
Hope For The Warriors® knew a Long Island native, a fallen Marine who had been stationed at Twentynine Palms, California. The connection with his family led to introductions and meetings with other families, veterans, first responders and more. As a city still reeling from the pain of 9/11, there was no shortage of people, corporations, or organizations that had respect and gratitude for service members. This was their chance to give back.
One key introduction was to the building manager of 55 Water Street, Harry Bridgwood. This led to donated office space. At first just one office -- but then more as the New York staff grew. So much growth in fact that this year, a second New York office was added when Friends of Firefighters offered donated space in Brooklyn.
The city that Tina dreaded and feared in 2007 had become home for her, her family and for Hope For The Warriors®. In a city known to be cold and unyielding, our organization had found countless examples of selfless sacrifice, generosity and warmth. Beyond the donations of time and resources, many have opened their own homes to host wounded service members and military families.
Hope For The Warriors® grew to depend on this network. As needs arose, we learned that we only had to pick up the phone and call the right person. There was always someone to call and ask and always someone who said yes.
When Hurricane Sandy approached and began its path of destruction, our staff was busy on the phones. Program directors checked on wounded service members and families. Tina called her New York "family." Just like thousands of others, the outcome was not good. We have family members that have lost their homes. Our office space at 55 Water Street has been flooded and everything is gone. Supplies, files, artwork, plaques, memories -- all gone. Our organization has lost its home and we are unsure when we can return.
Through this tragedy, there are moments that the emotions can be overwhelming. But more and more, we recognize the gift that we have been given. For years, we have picked up the phone to ask for help and assistance. Now, we pick up the phone and ask, "What can we do to help you?"
There is no doubt that this is the same gift that our organization provided for so many. Supporting wounded service members helped them to overcome some of the pain of 9/11. Now that support has gone full circle and it is our turn to help those in need.