Maria Mihalik is newsletter and supplements editor of Associations Now in Washington, DC.
Stone features donated and installed by members of the National Stone Institute add beauty to houses built for wounded veterans.
For soldiers who’ve been severely injured during war, nothing beats coming home—unless it’s coming home to a house where they can toast a bagel, take a shower, and get in bed by themselves.
Once-simple tasks like these are difficult, sometimes insurmountable, for veterans in wheelchairs and with other physical challenges. They may find themselves doing battle with stairs, too-high countertops, out-of-reach appliances, and narrow hallways, to name a few obstacles. Even needing help from family members can take an emotional toll—on the vets and their loved ones alike.
The Gary Sinise Foundation works to ease those challenges through its Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) program, which builds or modifies homes for veterans. And partner organizations, including the Natural Stone Institute, help make it happen.
Three years ago, Gary Sinise—the actor who may be best known for his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan in the movie Forrest Gump—personally called NSI seeking building materials and installation service. What he got was all-in involvement from suppliers, wholesale distributors, fabricators, installers, and other NSI members. “When they heard about it, they wanted [R.I.S.E.] to utilize stone in any aspect of the house they can,” says Pam Hammond, NSI’s project manager and executive assistant to CEO Jim Hieb. “There’s no substitute for the real thing.”
NSI outfits the homes with marble kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room countertops, and patios made from other natural stone. “Companies open their inventory and allow design teams and veterans’ families to pick any slab of natural stone that they want,” says Hammond. In addition, NSI has helped upgrade some homes’ exteriors from brick to stone, thanks to quarrying members.
“A lot of thought and care is put into what’s needed for their homes,” says Hammond. But most of all, the R.I.S.E. dwellings, which are given to veterans mortgage-free, provide what these former service members need the most: self-reliance and independence.