The American Legion Magazine | 9.1.08
By Alan W. Dowd

Thanks to the awareness generated by a pair of Air Force veterans, a charity devoted to helping homeless veterans has raised more than $200,000 in gifts and goods to furnish a new facility for veterans transitioning from the streets to self-sufficiency.

It all began when Scott and Katie Taylor contacted ABC affiliate WRTV to nominate Helping Homeless Veterans and Families (HVAF) for the Indiana edition of “Oprah’s Big Give.” Just three weeks later, a seed grant of $5,000 had blossomed into a campaign known as “Operation Heartland” that raised approximately $110,000 in cash donations and more than $90,000 in contributions of furniture, linens and other goods and services.

The funds and gifts are being used to furnish HVAF’s Donald W. Moreau Sr. Veterans House, a 40-apartment facility in Indianapolis.

“All we wanted to do initially was shine a light on the good work of HVAF and the plight of homeless veterans,” Katie explains. “We wanted to serve our community by serving our veterans,” Scott adds.

You could say the husband-and-wife team have service flowing through their veins. Both are proud veterans, former F-15E pilots and AirForceAcademy alums. Plus, Katie’s dad is an Air Force veteran, her brother an airman deployed in Iraq. Scott’s brother is a Navy Chief, and his dad is a retired police officer.

“The idea that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’ was very much ingrained in our moral fabric from the time we were very young,” Katie explains. She happily concedes that Operation Heartland “far exceeded our hopes, dreams and prayers.”

“They did a great job raising awareness of HVAF and of the needs of homeless veterans,” according to Dr. Charles Haenlein, president and CEO of HVAF, who notes that HVAF’s donor base, volunteer base and support base have expanded since the start of Operation Heartland.

Katie is not surprised by the response. “In Indiana, everyday is Veterans Day,” she says. “Helping HVAF allowed the best of Indiana to come together.”

According to Scott, that included firms such as FedEx as well as leading community organizations like the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers, American Legion Post 155 (Carmel, Ind.) and other groups and individuals. “This is the real heart of the Heartland,” he adds.

And because the Taylors reached out to their network of Air Force friends and families spread across the world, the effort was transformed into a global campaign. In fact, Katie’s brother, who pilots F-16s in Iraq, is sending American flags back to the States to be given to some of the organizations that have donated to Operation Heartland.

Haenlein adds that the new apartment facility, named after a longtime veterans advocate, is the outgrowth of many sets of helping hands, including the VA, United Way, Indianapolis Housing Trust Fund and Operation Heartland. He says the new facility is expected to open its doors in August.