“Seldom do we hear stories of people who give. We always hear stories about people who take. Meet the good Sheppard and learn something.”
by Ken Smith
I got an email from someone who knew someone who knew something that they thought might be important to me. “You wantta hear a story about how a combat wounded, disabled Marine in California had repairs done to his house by a group of 50 college students he asked?” Sure I said, what’s the story? Read the email I am about to send to you.
50 San Diego Students Volunteer 24 Hours of Labor to Renovate the Home of Purple Heart Marine Veteran for Embrace H3 Nonprofit Program on December 10th Over $30,000 worth of labor and donated or purchased materials went into the restoration of disabled Marine Sgt. Jason Swofford’s Oceanside home
A total of 50 San Diego College students and recent graduates were led by various volunteer contractors who devoted hours of labor to restore the home of disabled Purple Heart recipient Marine Veteran, Sgt. Jason Swofford on Saturday, December 10th, 2011. The ongoing mission was part of the San Diego nonprofit, Embrace Healing Our Heroes’ Homes (H3) program. Sgt. Swofford no longer has full usage of his right arm and suffers from mental trauma as a result of an explosion while serving in Afghanistan in 2009.
Over $30,000 worth of labor, donated materials/supplies and purchased materials/supplies went towards the restoration, resulting in a better quality of life for the disabled marine veteran. Sgt. Swofford’s house now features retrofit/green windows, a remodeled kitchen with marble countertops, garbage disposal and cast iron sink, tile backsplash, new cabinets with new pantry for easier access for Sgt. Swofford, along with marble tile flooring in both bathrooms, a completely remodeled shower in the master bedroom with ADA railings, modern plumbing, and functioning electrical outlets. The exterior of the house is newly landscaped; featuring new rain gutters installed and painted eaves.
“I can’t begin to tell you how honored we are to serve Sergeant Swofford and his family,” said H3 Founder, Sean Sheppard (www.TheGoodSheppard.tv). “To see such a diverse group of people come together for the purpose of helping a true American Hero is what Healing Our Heroes’ Homes is all about. It’s what this country is all about.”
Alliance Residential Development (www.allresco.com), an Arizona-based real estate development company, played a major role in the event, mobilizing all volunteer contractors. “It was an awesome experience for everyone involved,” said Alliance Senior Project Manager, Jim Frager. “ I can’t find a better purpose than giving back to our community and military veterans.” Other key participants of the Embrace H3 program include: Triumph Tile, Hajoca Corporation (Plumbing), Tone Framing, Scott Heyden Landscape and Grill Daddy BBQ. Funding provided by The Leichtag Family Foundation, Grainger Foundation and Sempra Energy Foundation.
With key investors coming to the table, Embrace plans to restore at least 24 homes in Southern California and Arizona in 2012. With a goal to restore the homes of low-income, disabled veteran homeowners, H3 falls in line with Embrace’s mission to mobilize college student volunteers of different background and ethnicities to serve less fortunate members of civilian and veteran communities. Efforts like H3 demonstrate that people can work together in harmony on a regular basis, despite our differences, for a common cause.
For more information on Embrace Founder Sean Sheppard,
For more than twenty-five years Ken Smith has been a leading advocate for veterans. A combat Vietnam veteran, Ken served during 1971-72 as a paramedic and an infantry squad leader with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. After his discharge, Ken continued his work as a paramedic in New England. On the streets of Boston he encountered growing numbers of homeless Vietnam veterans, and he became determined to both assist them and draw attention to their plight.
In 1989, Ken founded the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, located in a former VA hospital at 17 Court Street in downtown Boston. One of the first facilities designed for homeless veterans and now a national model, the shelter has served over 35,000 of America’s veterans who, for whatever reason, find themselves living on the streets.
In 1992 Ken was awarded Point of Light #142 by President George H. W. Bush, and later that same year received the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award, considered the “Oscar” for American veterans. As one of America’s foremost veterans service organizations, AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Ken was awarded this honor along with Peter Coors, with whom he still maintains a personal friendship.
Over the years Ken has appeared on many national media programs including Good Morning America, Prime Time Live, ABC News, CBS News, Larry King Live, CNN, 60 Minutes, and The Geraldo Show. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and numerous international newspapers, magazines, and websites. In 1992, Ken had the distinction of addressing both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as a keynote speaker on the subject of veterans.
Ken recently left his last assignment with the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, where he was the chief technology architect of the Veteran’s Vocational Technical Institute, Purple Heart Car Donation program, Purple Heart Call Center, Purple Heart Radio, Purple Heart Tech Support, Purple Heart Services, and over thirty new Purple Heart websites. Ken Smith provided the vision and has overseen the implementation of innovative, virtual, work-at-home training programs for veterans with combat disabilities. Ken has designed, upgraded, and supervised the integration and installation of Purple Heart Service Foundations computer and telephony systems, upgrading features from legacy POTS phones to SIP-trunked communications systems including establishing new VPN networks for teams of remote virtual employees.
An adventure sports enthusiast, Ken enjoys extreme skiing, competitive sailing, flying, and travel. He has traveled extensively worldwide, delivering his positive message to the veterans of other countries that a paraplegic veteran of the United States suffers the same as a paraplegic veteran of India; that an amputee veteran of Nepal suffers as much as an amputee veteran of France. Ken’s mentor was Harold Russell, the two-time Academy Award winner who starred in the 1946 film Best Years of Our Lives. A World War II veteran, on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, Harold lost both of his hands. This ghastly misfortune did not stop him, and he went on to become the chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Disabilities. For over fifty years he served US presidents from Truman to Clinton. Ken was humbled and grateful when Harold agreed to serve as the best man at Ken’s wedding.
Ken has been instrumental in the planning stages for the Veterans Workshop, a new nationwide veterans’ advocacy group building a new “Veterans Hotline, and the development of special programs for those who have lost their sight or their hearing, or who have suffered spinal cord injury, as a result of their military experience. The Veterans Workshop provides a forum where new technology and advancements in the fields of prosthetic and orthotic solutions, many designed by Ken, are shared along with virtual training and employment programs.
A 1970 graduate of De La Salle Academy in Newport, Rhode Island, for the past twenty-five years Ken has continued his education with extensive college courses in computer technology and related social service fields. He resides in his native state of Rhode Island with his wife and children.