Meet the charity that gives mortgage-free homes to wounded vets

gary Meet the charity that gives mortgage free homes to wounded vets

Air Force MSgt Joe Deslauriers inspects his future home with his wife. Deslauriers served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lost his legs and his left arm in an explosion. (Photo Courtesy/ Building Homes for Heroes)

By Matt Saintsing

On Sept. 11, 2001, Andy Pujol, a successful business owner, sat in the ruins of where the World Trade Center had been just hours earlier. It was there, in the rubble with thousands of other volunteers helping with search-and-rescue, that he made a promise to honor those who serve our country.

Pujol founded Building Homes for Heroes, a charity that gifts houses to wounded veterans and service members, in 2006. To date, the group has given 125 mortgage-free houses, mostly to recipients that have a 100 percent disability rating from the VA.

“A home is what everyone dreams of having one day,” Pujol, who serves as the nonprofit’s CEO. “The moment keys to a free home are handed over to a family “is a moment filled with tears of joy.”

“There is an extension of love, gratitude, and more often than not, relief,” he continued.

Building Homes for Heroes was born out of Pujol’s frustration with the lack of transparency in other charities. After 9/11, he got involved with a few nonprofit organizations for first responders and the military, but as he said,“I didn’t really know where the money was going.”

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US Army Specialist Hugo Gonzalez with Andy Pujol during his home-gifting ceremony in Port. St. Lucie, Fla. Gonzalez lost his vision in an IED explosion. (Photo Courtesy/ Building Homes for Heroes)

“I never knew who was receiving the money, and that bothered me. I needed to know who was impacted, and how it changes their lives.”

That’s when he decided the best way to give back was to start a charity of his own.

“I wanted to ensure that every possible penny raised would to go the mission,” Pujol said. He does not take a salary for running the day-to-day operations of the organization.

With a four star rating on Charity Navigator (the highest possible rating), Building Homes for Heroes spends an impressive 94 percent of its total expenses on actually building homes.

Starting in 2006 with a single home, the charity has since exploded. Recipients are chosen by Building Homes for Heroes after they’re nominated by hospitals or family members. They also have a good relationship with US Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program, Pujol said.

From there, each house comes with a financial adviser to look after the financial ebbs and flows that come with home-ownership, because “our goal is to make the recipients successful homeowners,” says Pujol.

Pujol says he has no plans of slowing down anytime soon, but says building more homes “comes down to dollars and cents.” Those interested in donating to Building Homes for Heroes can go here, or call (516) 684-9220.

Click here to learn more about Building Homes for Heroes.

Connect: @MattBSaintsing | Matt@ConnectingVets.com

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