Counters for a Cause
At national battlefields and military shrines on American shores and abroad, the stories of valor and sacrifice of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces have often been told in granite markers, some grand, some understated.
It makes the annual, national yard sale of granite remnants, sponsored by a network of North American stone fabricators a fitting gesture to help injured veterans focus their energy and attention on their families, recovery and rebuilding their lives.
October marks the sixth year that the Artisan Group has come together for “Counters for a Cause,” which supports the work of Homes for Our Troops.
The nonprofit organization, which receives three percent of gross sales from the nationwide sale, builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes to help severely combat-injured veterans from all branches of the military who served post Sept. 11, 2001, make the transition back into everyday life.
More than $100,000 has been raised since 2011 from homeowners purchasing pieces of stone remnants and slabs at discounted prices and helping a veteran at the same time.
Locally, Eastern Surfaces Inc., 601 S. 10th St., Allentown, has been part of “Counters for a Cause” since its start.
“It’s just been a win-win event for everyone in the Artisan Group organization and its customers,” said Karen Kuranda, sales and business development manager at Eastern Surfaces. “We install a lot of countertops and, as a result, have a lot of remnants available for sale for smaller projects.”
With all of the leftover stone, the network decided to create an annual yard sale that would benefit customers and injured veterans at the same time.
“The thinking was ‘why don’t we do a sale once a year to sell the remnants that are taking up space so homeowners get a great value and help a very worthy cause at the same time?” Kuranda said. “It’s turned into a very popular fundraising cause, which has raised money nationwide and helped many veterans and their families get back normal lives.”
According to its website, Homes for Our Troops designs homes for injured veterans with more than 40 special adaptions, including lowered countertops and accessible appliances, widened doorways and hallways and hardwood floors for wheelchair access, pull-down shelving to reduce the risk of falls, roll-in show stalls and automatic doors.
Homes for Our Troops builds four-bedroom, two-bath, specially adapted energy efficient homes of about 2,650 square feet. The design provides the right size home for a veteran to comfortably raise a family while limiting expenses for utilities.
Home construction averages about six to seven months and costs an average of $430,000 (an average of $700,000 in California), including engineering, excavation, labor, and materials.
Qualifying veterans choose the geographic area where they’d like to live, considering its proximity to family, medical centers, school systems, jobs, privacy preferences, and urban versus rural settings. Homes for Our Troops locates and provides lot options to the veteran, making every effort on personal preferences, and then makes the final selection.
The organization manages its building schedule to match its revenue stream to ensure that each home is completed.
To qualify for the program, a veteran must be approved for the Specially Adapted Housing Grant by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The grant is awarded to severely injured veterans based on the level of injury. Most of them have sustained injuries including multiple amputations, full or partial paralysis and severe traumatic brain injury.
More than 75 projects are under way in 39 states, and 222 homes have been constructed since the organization was founded in 2004.
In past years sales, Eastern Surfaces has donated more than $13,000 from the sales of slabs of granite and quartz remnants and looks forward to adding to that again this year. Last year, “Counters for a Cause” supported two home-building projects in Pennsylvania, one in Lake Wallenpaupack, the other in the Philadelphia area.
This year, instead of having the yard sale on a designated Saturday in October, “Counters for a Cause” will last the entire month at Eastern Surfaces, which is undergoing facility upgrades to better serve its customers. The company plans to resume the one-day sale format again next year.
“We’re setting aside a portion of our retail showroom sales during the month of October for the program,” Kuranda said.
“It’s a tremendous event and helps in multiple ways by raising specific dollars for veterans in need and raising awareness that some of our veteran really need a helping hand,” she noted. “We should never forget what these people have done for us and the sacrifices they have made to protect our freedom.”
Kuranda said she enjoys the support of faithful customers who return for the sale every year and bring friends. “It’s so electric as people pass the word and generate enthusiasm,” she said. “It’s very gratifying for the customers and our employees to share in that excitement. It’s wonderful, because people know that they’re getting a good deal as they pick through all the remaining stone from kitchen and bathroom countertop projects but that they’re giving back in a meaningful way.”
Kuranda said the more than 100 employees of Eastern Surfaces and co-owners Brian Rocca and Chuck Martin look forward to the annual event as they set out the remnants, knowing that a veteran somewhere will benefit by someone purchasing an irregularly shaped piece of granite that will likely be just the right dimension and color for a home project.
For those who are unable to attend “Counters for a Cause,” donations are accepted online at hfotusa.com.