Disabled Veteran Purchasing his First Home Through Affordable Homeownership Foundation, Inc.

Disabled Veteran Purchasing his First Home Through Affordable Homeownership Foundation, Inc.

Affordable Homeownership Foundation, Inc. (AHF) announced that Lawrence Heyliger, a 100% disabled veteran, is purchasing his first home from AHF to be built in Lehigh Acres, FL.

“Lawrence Heyliger has always dreamed of owning his own home, but found himself unable to afford one in southwest Florida,” explained Lois Healy, executive director of Affordable Homeownership Foundation, Inc.

Lawrence Heyliger discovered the Affordable Homeownership Foundation’s website while searching for affordable home builders that help veterans purchase and own their first home. Affordable Homeownership Foundation rehabilitates and builds homes for people in Lee County.

“Mr. Heyliger connected with a home buying counselor at AHF to learn more about becoming a first-time homebuyer,” Healy explained.

“After meeting with AHF, Mr. Heyliger picked out a lot in a location that he liked to build his house. Once the lot and the floor plan were selected, the counselors at AHF worked diligently to help Mr. Heyliger qualify to purchase his first home.”

“Veterans that place their lives on the line for our country deserve the best,” shared Healy. “AHF enjoys helping veterans, especially when it comes to making the dream of homeownership a reality.”

Affordable Homeownership Foundation has been building and rehabilitating homes for veterans, families, and individuals since 2000. AHF has had a veteran homeownership program since 2014 when AHF became a part of the National Community Stabilization Trust Veteran Homeownership Program.

Pictured (Left to Right): Robert Arnal – FineMark National Bank & Trust (the bank financing the construction of the home); John Baughman – Construction Manager for Hemmer Construction; Lois Healy – CEO of AHF; Lawrence Heyliger – Homeowner; and Ken Falvey – AHF’s Property Manager

“We’re grateful to partner with Hemmer Construction on this project to build Mr. Heyliger’s home,” shared Healy. “The team at Hemmer shares the unique vision of AHF. Dan Hemmer, the owner of Hemmer Construction, believes helping veterans is key to giving back to those who have given their all for their country.”

Lois Healy is a veteran and established programs at AHF specifically aimed at supporting veterans in 2014 because the need for veteran housing was great.

“On October 8, 2021, we broke ground on Mr. Heyliger’s home. We expect construction to be finalized within six months,” explained Healy.

“I am excited to finally own my own home,” Heyliger remarked. “I have been renting all of my life, and I can’t wait to be able to have a BBQ in my own backyard.”

20th anniversary 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony

20th anniversary 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony

The Southwest Florida community is invited to join first responders and public officials at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, in downtown Fort Myers for a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony that will mark the 20th year since the terrorist attack.

The event will be at Caloosa Sound Convention Center, 1374 Monroe St., Fort Myers, FL 33901. It’s free and open to the public. Doors will open at 7:45 a.m.

An array of agencies and organizations – including law enforcement, fire, public safety and airlines – will conduct the ceremony, which is expected to last about 90 minutes. The remembrance ceremony includes a national colors presentation, patriotic music and the reading of names of those who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Brief comments from officials will be made, including Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson, Fort Myers Councilman Johnny Streets, Lee County Commission Chairman Kevin Ruane and Florida State Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka.

The group of volunteers and first responders who are planning the event want to allow the community to “remember our heroes – the ones who served, the ones who are still serving and the ones who paid the ultimate price,” said Chief Tracy McMillion of the Fort Myers Fire Department who also serves as vice chairman of the Lee County Fire Chiefs’ Association.

For additional event information, contact the City of Fort Myers Fire Department at 239-321-7311 or Iona McGregor Fire District’s Megan Contreras, public information officer, at 239-689-9046 or contreras@ionafire.com

Wounded Warriors of Collier County wins lawsuit against City of Naples

Wounded Warriors of Collier County wins lawsuit against City of Naples

After a two-year denial of approval for veteran housing in Collier County, Wounded Warriors of Collier County (WWCC) won a federal lawsuit against the City of Naples.

Earlier this summer, WWCC filed an official lawsuit against the City of Naples for not providing reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act to allow more than four (4) veterans to live together in a group transitional home through programming with Wounded Warriors of Collier County.

Current Collier County residential zoning regulations only allow four (4) unrelated persons, to live in one home at a time. The current Alpha House within the Warriors Home Initiative has a capacity to provide services for up to eight (8) veterans simultaneously, meaning there were unused beds and services not being used for the greater benefit of the community. Thanks to the efforts of many, more local veterans will be able to be served.   

“Today the city has acknowledged and affirmed the right of these disabled veterans to housing of their choosing, particularly after having served their country with honor in the post-9/11 battlefields,” said Jeffery Lynne, ESQ, CHC at Beighley, Myrick, Udell + Lynne. 

“As we approach the 20th anniversary of that fateful day, we anticipate that this recognition by the City of Naples will now allow Wounded Warriors of Collier County to continue in their mission of serving these heroes by providing them with suitable housing and support to allow them to build their own lives back, together with their military brothers.”

The courts declared that the City of Naples must provide WWCC with a reasonable accommodation under FHAA and ADA, allowing up to seven (7) unrelated persons to reside within the Alpha House. The Alpha House will now be classified as a single-family residence under the City’s applicable codes.

WWCC President Dale Mullin

“We are thrilled that we can now move forward with providing additional much-needed housing and resources to our local veterans,” stated WWCC President, Dale Mullin.

“Our goal is to make sure that no veteran is left behind and increasing our capacity at the Alpha House is one great step in that direction.”

For more information about the WWCC’s capital campaign for veteran housing, please visit here to learn about the Warrior Homes Initiative.

About WWCC

The vision of Wounded Warriors of Collier County is to see that “No Veteran is Left Behind”. What began as simply a vision to support the Veterans of Collier County through facilitating communication and assisting in partnering local Veterans with needed resources, Wounded Warriors of Collier County has thrived.

Through collaboration with our local partners, we have now served over 70 local Veterans this year as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary. Wounded Warriors of Collier County is a 100% volunteer-run organization led by the founder and CEO, Dale Mullin, who is a Veteran.  A gift of any size to Wounded Warriors of Collier County’s operating budget will help them achieve their mission of supporting local Veterans.

For more information, visit www.wwcollier.org,  or call 239-302-1800. 

HIRING EVENT FOR VETERANS HELD JULY 12

HIRING EVENT FOR VETERANS HELD JULY 12

CareerSource Southwest Florida is hosting a hiring event for veterans from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 12 at Crowne Plaza Fort Myers at Bell Tower Shops.

The hiring event brings community veteran programs together, local employers and complimentary headshots for veterans. 

CareerSource says its goal is to connect more than 20 businesses dedicated to helping veterans and their families find careers.

For more information, click here.

Community Cooperative restarts mobile food pantries for veterans in January

Community Cooperative restarts mobile food pantries for veterans in January

Community Cooperative is again offering monthly mobile food pantries for veterans at the Lee County Veterans Affairs (VA) Clinic in Cape Coral.

At the drive-thru pantries, veterans and their families will receive a week’s worth of shelf-stable food, meat and fresh produce.

Community Cooperative offered its first veterans-only food pantry at the VA Clinic in Cape Coral in spring 2017.

The VA honored Community Cooperative with the inaugural Bay Pines Director’s Club award in September for the food assistance program at the Lee County VA Clinic. The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System runs nine facilities serving more than 108,000 veterans in 10 counties in Central Southwest Florida and is the fourth-busiest VA Healthcare system in the country.

For more information, visit CommunityCooperative.com.

MEET DETECTIVE GUNNER, THE NEWEST DEPUTY DOG

MEET DETECTIVE GUNNER, THE NEWEST DEPUTY DOG

He’s survived the clutches of an alligator’s jaw, and now he’s reporting for duty.  I’m talking of course about Gunner, now Detective Gunner as he was recently deputized by Sheriff Carmine Marceno. 

Gunner made national headlines after a Florida Wildlife Federation video was released of his father, Rick Wilbanks, rescuing the five-week-old puppy from the grip of an alligator.  The now-famous video showed Rick jumping into the lake and prying the gator’s jaws open to rescue his puppy, all while never dropping his cigar.

Wilbanks told CapeStyle Magazine that he had just gotten the puppy from the breeder and had no idea the incident was recorded.  But the daring rescue was recorded, and Rick and Gunner won the hearts of Americans everywhere.

One of those individuals was Sheriff Carmine Marceno, who believed that Gunner and his story could help educate people about water safety.  In a ceremony last week, Gunner raised his right paw and swore an oath to the Constitution, making him the newest Deputy Dog as a detective and “safety officer” due to his personal experience.  Detective Gunner is now authorized to give official tips about safety and reports directly to Lt. Bosco.

Rick, who developed a close relationship with Sheriff Marceno, is excited that Gunner can serve his community. 

“I think it’s wonderful,” Rick told CapeStyle Magazine.  “Taking something that could have been a tragedy and turning it into something good.  I’m happy.”

Starting in January, Detective Gunner will be going to schools to talk about water safety, visit children and the elderly in hospitals and assisted living facilities, eventually even educating teenagers about driver safety. 

“It [Gunner’s story] will start a conversation with people,” said Amy Dell Aquila, the Sheriff’s Community Liaison.   “Conversations about how this happened, how to avoid this.”

Saturday was Detective Gunner’s first official day on the job.  Stationed at the Community Resource Center at the new Brotherhood of Heroes Museum & Resource Center, Gunner was available for photos with individuals coming in for a Christmas food giveaway.  

Also attending the event were Cape Coral’s newest State Representative, Mike Giallombardo, and recently elected City Councilman Tom Hayden, both of whom helped distributed food to local families.

The Deputy Dogs program is a recent program which engages the community using superhero-like “deputy dogs”, spreading specific messages about safety to Lee County residents and guests.  The first deputy dog was Deputy Chance, Sheriff Marceno’s own rescue dog, who is now Lee County’s Goodwill Ambassador.

Deputy Chance has since been joined by a team of capable deputies, including Lt. Bosco, Kylo, Bowden, and Dasher.  Some deputy dogs have specific skills.  For example, GiGi is the deputy’s animal abuse analyst, Mad Dog is an undercover operative, and the bloodhounds Maggie and Mercy search for missing children.

Cape Coral has their own patron deputy dog as well, named Prince.  Prince, or “The Prince of Cape Coral” is a debonair poodle who is the team’s public relations officer.  Who’s a good boy, representing his hometown?  Prince is!

In fact, all these deputy dogs are good boys and girls, serving their communities.  Detective Gunner is in good company.

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