OCEAN CITY – The word is out on Home of the Brave but not far enough as local organizations and establishments are lending a helping hand to fund and spread the message of a local woman who has given her home to help service members and their families.
Tina Pearson, founder and CEO of Home of the Brave, has created a vacation home where combat veterans and their families can reconnect.
Home of the Brave was inspired in 2009 by one of the stories told by Pearson’s friends who had served in Iraq. Her friend has a son, whose father had been killed in Iraq, and she had been deployed as well. While she was away, her son lived with his grandmother and upon return he could barely remember his mother.
“I remember thinking how devastating … it really struck my heart and weighed on me,’ Pearson said.
One day while Pearson was out cutting her grass she was thinking of how peaceful her community is being positioned in the area of Berlin and wondered if such a peaceful place would help service families during the transition period of having a loved one home return from deployment.
Having her home situated so close to many different venues, such as Ocean City and Assateague Island, Pearson kept thinking of more reasons why service families would enjoy such a getaway. While contemplating the idea Pearson turned to a Chaplin at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who assured her the idea would be beneficial to many veterans.
Through the support of friends, family, the community and a local contractor, Pearson’s home was renovated and converted into Home of the Brave, which is handicap accessible and serves as a separate residence built as an addition to the house where Pearson now resides.
“Most people in our country want to support our military but don’t always know how … and I really thought people would embrace this,” Pearson said. “I have been overwhelmed by the response … all the way from large organizations, businesses, to the kids at Stephen Decatur Middle School and Berlin Intermediate …”
In October of 2010, the Home of the Brave held its grand opening. The home has three bedrooms that sleep 8 and three bathrooms. The home is equipped with games, puzzles and movies as well as the outdoor shed is filled with outdoor games, toys for the beach and bicycles and family cookouts can be enjoyed on the back deck.
“When the families come, they have total privacy. Once I greet them and show them around, they’re on their own. I tell them they can do as much or as little they want while they are here,” Pearson said.
A family is greeted with a gift basket and a packet of information leading them to the fun and exciting experiences the area offers. Businesses have, and are welcome to, donate passes or gift certificates to assist families on their next adventure or a night out on the town.
Service families come from near and far. The home is available for a week at a time for large groups throughout the year. So far this year 13 visits have been scheduled, including the Home of the Brave’s first female veterans.
“We are getting the word out but the challenge is getting people to understand that it is a legitimate opportunity … I have had people say it is too good to be true, it’s free, what’s the catch … but so far word to mouth has helped,” Pearson said.
Home of the Brave has been chosen by JC’s Northside Pub as the beneficiary for its annual fundraiser, which collects donations when customers choose to throw cash to stick on the ceiling. By the end of the year, the pub’s ceiling is covered in a variety of bills to be collected. Throughout the year, different events are held at the pub to raise money for the charity, as well as an end of the year party when the ceiling money is collected.
“I was just overwhelmed,” Pearson said of when she found out her organization was chosen. “I never cease to be amazed by the people that I meet and their generosity … I am so grateful for everyone’s help.”
A benefit will be held at Burley Oak Brewery in Berlin on Monday, March 11, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. where Ryan Loria and Eric Zitzmann of JC’s will be guest bartending to raise funds for the Home of the Brave. An ambitious goal has been set to raise $3,000.
The event will include a 50/50 raffle and live entertainment by Nate Clendenen, Blake Haley, Marcus and Rachel, Broad St., and Marc E. Duo, who are all donating their time. Free food will be offered while donations will be encouraged.
“We will have a good time and we will raise as much money as we can,” Loria said. “It takes a lot of courage for one person to turn their whole life around for someone else … and this is the least I can do to support someone who is a local hero as far as I am concerned.”
“We just know how to throw a party,” Zitzmann joked over JC’s part in fundraising.
Michael “Sandman” Sandoe, who represents the Delmar Chapter of the Hogs and Heroes Foundation, was the one who suggested Home of the Brave to JC’s for their annual fundraiser.
The Hogs and Heroes Foundation is a non-profit organization of community motorcycle riders that sponsor and hold fundraising events for public safety, U.S military, and Wounded Warrior Charities, as well as perform honor missions for fallen police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and members of the military that have been killed in combat operations and U.S. Military Veterans.
Sandman has worked with Pearson on several occasions in the past and it was easy for him to recommend Home of the Brave to JC’s. Sandman will be on the scene at Burley Oak on March 11 to show Hogs and Heroes’ support.
“It is the least anyone of us can do to give back for the sacrifices that our military gives for us and the freedoms they fight for,” Sandman said.
Sandman pointed out that Home of the Brave is funded 100 percent by community donations, and besides fundraising the objectives is to spread awareness of the local respite.