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Employee Strives to Help Military Families

By Operation Homefront

Employee of the Year is Passionate about Helping Military Families Start Strong and Stay Strong.

“Working at Operation Homefront changes you,” said Joe O’Hara. “It has opened my eyes to the challenges that military families face every day. Often the service member has medical issues, and the spouse becomes the caregiver, which means very little income for the family and daily sacrifices. I’ve also discovered individuals and organizations who are eager and excited to help these families.”

Operation Homefront’s 2021 Employee of the Year has a passion for helping military families Start Strong and Stay Strong that began in 2013.

As the area director of Operation Homefront programming for seven states – Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont – Joe enjoys working with partners, and expanding programming to better serve military families in his region.

Joe loves seeing our programs in action and their impact on military families. He met  an Army veteran and his family who lived in a drafty house for years without resources to replace old and broken windows. The home was affecting the health of the family and causing outrageously high electric bills. The veteran applied for assistance and Operation Homefront replaced all the windows. “He was nearly crying as he explained how this was life-changing for his family, and that the family felt safer and had a more positive outlook for the future,” said Joe. “He offered to volunteer to do anything we needed because he was so grateful for the miracle of Operation Homefront!”

At one of Joe’s first Holiday Toy Drives in Wellesley, Massachusetts, he encountered a very sweet but determined three-year old girl. Each military child attending the event was able to select one premium toy and then fill a bag with stocking stuffer toys. The little girl’s eyes and face lit up as she selected a big doll that was half her size. Then her parents told her to fill a bag with other small toys, and her face turned sour as she walked away. This went on for a while, and she even ran out of the room with the doll. Finally, the father told Joe that his family didn’t have much so they had always told their kids they could only have ONE toy for Christmas. So the daughter thought that if she took any of the smaller toys, then she would have to give up the big doll. “This really made me realize how many sacrifices the family, and especially the kids, have to make,” said Joe.

Joe held a Music for the Military event with a live band, a huge cookout, lots of games and prizes. Afterwards, a spouse sent Joe a note thanking him, and telling him how nice it had been to spend time with other military families and share stories about good times, challenges, and resources. She also shared that it was the first time in over a year that she had seen her husband smile and have fun.

“I’m excited and motivated by the fact that every day I wake up is a clean slate, and anything can happen,” said Joe. “On any given day, I can discover a donor with the resources to fill a need for military families, or a group of volunteers willing to help with an event or run one of their own in support of veterans and military families. I also have my Dad’s Purple Heart, so I always feel that he’s looking down from Heaven with great pride as I strive to help these deserving people on their journey to start strong and stay strong.”

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