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Sharon Foster, Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
WASHINGTON - 05.06.2009
Former North Carolina governors Jim Martin and Jim Hunt have been named as honorary co-chairs of the North Carolina Heroes Fund Statewide Advisory Board, joining other state residents and leaders in showing support for military service members and their families.
"The former governors were invited to serve as honorary co-chairs to assist in expanding the reach and exposure of our organization," Scott D. Stone, founder of the North Carolina Heroes Fund, said. "Given the large military community within North Carolina and their long-term support of our troops, they were eager to join the organization. They have both seen the great work we have been doing and felt compelled to lend a hand to our cause."
Created in 2007, the North Carolina Heroes Fund's central mission is to aid North Carolina service members returning from active duty and who may be facing a difficult transition of reuniting with loved ones. The fund also helps those experiencing financial hardships. This year alone, the fund has awarded $13,784 in grants and scholarships to 11 service members in need.
Army reservist Kent Larsen and his wife, Patti, from Spring Lake, N.C., are grateful for the fund's help.
"For a brief period of time, right around the holidays, we were struggling to pay the rent and make van payments," Patti Larsen said. "We have two little boys, and we were just in a bind. The fund collected information from us, saw our need and helped us. They talked to us in a way that was respectful, and our pride was still intact. Through the fund's help, after we got out of our bind, we decided to 'pay it forward' and help another military family in need."
Marine Corps Cpl. Patrick Howard and his wife, JoAnna, of Ellenboro, N.C., also received helped from the fund.
"My husband was injured in Iraq two years ago," JoAnna Howard said. "He retired earlier this year. Things just got pretty tight. I contacted the fund, and they were really helpful. They made our car payments for about three months and paid our utilities. It was just a blessing."
Along with assisting with mortgage and rent payments and donating gift cards for food and clothing, the fund also helps with remodeling homes and making car modifications for injured service members.
"Travel time associated with extended rehabilitation or the remodeling of a home, along with car modifications, are common financial stressors on a military family," Stone said. "We try to assist with all of this. Family support is vital in rehabilitation, and being able to independently get around is important as well."
In addition to financial hardship assistance, the fund has an educational grant program to assist the families of North Carolina service members with the cost of continued education.
"We want to help offset tuition, room and board [and] books and to continue to aid students in pursuing advanced educational degrees," Stone said. "It is with the educational assistance program that we are seeing the greatest return on our investment."
The caliber of students the fund has assisted are in the top 15 percent of their classes, Stone said.
"Many have a parent overseas and are employed part-time to contribute to their overall educational expenses," he continued.
The strong leadership skills of Martin and Hunt and their understanding of military issues, especially financial hardships, will aid in furthering the fund's mission, Stone said.
"The better-known our organization becomes, the more service members will learn of our ability to serve as a resource for support," he said. "We are pleased to welcome former governors Martin and Hunt to our statewide advisory board. Their participation is further evidence of the broad, statewide support of North Carolina's military and their families."