HEBRON – It all started with TVs.
On a visit to New Horizons, Transitional Living Service’s veterans home in Hebron, Marianne Ruiz noticed the antiquated TVs the veterans would gather around for football games or their favorite movies and programs.
So with her nonprofit organization Joe’s Wish, the McHenry resident and her small band of dedicated volunteers raised money for two top-of-the-line, 50-inch flat screen TVs.
But with Christmas just around the corner, Ruiz wanted to do more. She asked New Horizon’s 21 veteran residents to supply her with a holiday wish list, and Joe’s Wish volunteers went shopping.
Then on Saturday, Christmas came early for the veterans living at the TLS home when the gifts were given to more than grateful recipients.
“We’re here not because we feel sorry for them,” Ruiz said. “We’re here because we’re grateful for what they’ve done and the sacrifices they’ve made.”
Some of the vets wanted simple things, like electric razors, shirts, coats, or pots and pans, while others asked for more extravagant gifts – TVs, DVD players, even an electric violin. Each one got nearly everything on their list.
“In reality, a lot of these guys wouldn’t have a Christmas,” said Jim Jablonski, who works at New Horizons as the Quartermaster.
Army veteran James Fox was visibly shaking and at a loss for words after he opened his new 32-inch flat screen TV and Blu-ray player.
“This is the best Christmas I’ve had in a long, long time,” he said. Fox then removed his glasses to wipe tears from his eyes. “The only thing better than this is seeing my two kids.”
Fox was homeless before he landed at New Horizons more than one year ago.
Transitional Living Services is a McHenry County-based veterans organization. Among its many programs is the Hebron home that helps its clients regain their ability to live independently.
“I see this as an opportunity,” New Horizons Navy veteran Ken Peters said. “Very few people have this type of support; it’s the best opportunity people can get.”
How to help
Joe's Wish is a nonprofit based in McHenry that supports military veterans and their families. Information about Joe's Wish and upcoming fundraisers can be found at www.joeswish.com or by calling 815-575-1011.