FORT WAYNE, IN (January 27, 2021) – Over the past 18 months, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne provided home repair assistance to veterans in need as part of its Veterans Repair Assistance Program (VRAP).

 The idea for the program started in 2019, when Indiana Michigan Power employee and Air Force veteran Jarrod Wilson began collaborating with a group of other young professionals in Leadership Fort Wayne. His group learned that having resources for home repairs was one of the top concerns among veterans who called the United Way’s 211 helpline. After evaluating this issue, the group created “Veterans Connect,” and later approached Habitat to help come up with a solution. Soon the VRAP program was born.

During the fundraising process, I&M also got involved and presented a $75,000 grant to the VRAP program on behalf of the AEP Foundation. The Veterans Connect project raised an additional $10,700 to contribute to the program.

 “By helping veterans keep up their homes, the Veterans Repair Assistance Program helps provide hope, dignity, strength and vibrancy to veterans and their families,” said Toby Thomas, President and Chief Operating Officer of Indiana Michigan Power. “I&M and the AEP Foundation are very pleased to support our community and our veterans by partnering with Habitat for Humanity and Veterans Connect in this innovative program.”

Since its inception, Habitat’s VRAP program has helped seven veterans and their families with home repair projects. Those projects included painting, roof replacement, H-VAC repairs, and much more.

Joe Lewis, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, is one of the individuals who has benefitted from the program thus far.

“There was some work that I needed to get done on the house, and I financially couldn’t afford it,” Lewis said. “My wife actually found out about Habitat and said, ‘Maybe we could get Habitat to help you out – you’re a veteran.’ I said, ‘Okay, let’s try it,’ and it turned out to be a good fit.”

“Joe Lewis’ story is one of those that just touches your heart,” said Andrew Gritzmaker, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne. “A guy that is a Fort Wayne native, a Vietnam veteran, and now able to stay and reside in his home in a dignified way.”

 So far, Habitat has used around $65,000 of the available funds to help veterans in the Fort Wayne area. The remaining $20,000 will be used to help another veteran in dire need of home repairs whose story we will share at a later date.

 I&M and Habitat for Humanity have worked together as a dynamic team for years, and both organizations look forward to continuing the relationship and profound impact that it has on the community.