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Wichita Falls Living Magazine

Extraordinary Service ... Extraordinary Gratitude

Homes for Heroes provides resources to open doors for community heroes.

Written by Susan Turner
Photos provided by Kim Roark

The horrific events of September 11, 2001 shined a spotlight on the vital role of heroes who keep every community safe and ensure a quality of life unattainable without them.  They rarely accept the title of hero, but from the millions of residents of New York City to the most remote areas of our country, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness comes down to extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. They are the last line of defense of everything that matters in our lives.  Whether serving our nation, cities, counties, school districts, healthcare or other entities, they rise to action in life’s critical moments.  We often don’t realize the lengths to which they will go to make our lives better.

Recognizing how different our lives would be without the critical infrastructure of military, law enforcement, firefighters, educators, EMS and healthcare professionals, Ruth Johnson of Minneapolis, Minnesota drew up a blueprint by which community heroes could be shown gratitude in a life-changing way. The common denominator in each of these professions is the sanctity of each of their homes. Contributing to the financial aspect of securing homes for these heroes became the heart of Ruth Johnson’s vision.  Toward  that end, in 2002 she and members of her  family established Homes for Heroes, Inc.  

Twenty years later, Homes for  Heroes has become a nationwide network of real estate, mortgage business specialists and others committed to helping everyday heroes.  According to the Homes for Heroes website, “Since its beginning in 2002, Homes for Heroes has over 50,000 community heroes. Through the Homes for Heroes Foundation, over $1,000,000 has been given back to American heroes who protect us from crime, war and who enrich our lives through healthcare and education. They deserve recognition…our efforts tell them that serving others does not go unnoticed.”

One link in the Homes for Heroes network is Kim Roark of Wichita Falls.  Kim got into real estate in 2005.  She grew up in Burkburnett, Texas where nearby Sheppard Air Force Base ushered new faces in classrooms every three or four years.  Her childhood was immersed in the diversity of this world and the appreciation of how much stronger we are when we stand together. Kim also had a unique childhood experience that forever shaped her life.  In Kim’s eighth grade year, a tornado devastated the city of Wichita Falls, Texas.  It was April 17, 1979.  The F4 tornado destroyed entire neighborhoods and left 20,000 people homeless. Kim’s home was not in the storm’s 47-mile path, but her grandmother’s home was severely damaged.  “Wichita Falls looked like photos we see of war-torn countries,” Kim said.  “My grandmother was not leaving her home, so I slept there with her.  I remember looking up at the stars through what was supposed to be her roof. I also remember very well military personnel and the Salvation Army coming in to repair the damage.  Busloads of military went door to door helping.  I remember thinking, ‘They don’t even know us.’  Standing in line at the Salvation Army for water and food changed my life. I vowed that someday I would do something to give back.”

Kim’s unique background and her chosen profession made her an ideal supporter of Homes for Heroes.  “In 2010, Homes for Heroes came across my desk,” Kim recalled. “My husband was a firefighter, and between the sacrifices I saw him make every day, the early influence of  Sheppard’s military presence and witnessing first-hand the unselfish action of total strangers who helped people after the tornado, this organization really grabbed my attention.  I was the third real estate agent in Texas to join the program, and I fell in love with Ruth Johnson.”  
Among the organizations that help people obtain homes, Kim believes Homes for Heroes plays a unique role.  “The diversity of heroes we serve makes us different, and having a nationwide presence brings stability.  We have an outstanding network which supports its members. Sometimes knowing the right people makes all of the difference.” Members of the military are literally a mobilized force in spreading the mission of Homes for Heroes.  As they travel, they come in contact with residents in new towns, efficiently getting the word out, so that more heroes in more parts of the country are served. 

According to the Homes for Heroes website, real estate agents fund Homes for Heroes by giving back a portion of their gross commission fees when heroes buy or sell a home. When heroes buy or sell a home using Homes for Heroes affiliates they also help other heroes in need because Homes for Heroes, Inc. donates a portion of its earnings to the Homes for Heroes Foundation.  Grant money can be given to heroes with immediate financial hardship or to others who may be facing a housing crisis. The Homes for Heroes Foundation gave $10,000 to Million Dollar Teacher Project in Arizona whose mission is to elevate the teaching profession to increase support, compensation and recognition for teachers. 

     Playing an active role in the community is key to telling the Homes for Heroes story and reaching out to others. Coffees and other community events let the mission be known and show appreciation to people who are the lifeblood of our communities. 

Through the eyes of a person with a heart for someone in need, life is full of opportunities, and the blessing goes both ways. “Selling houses is my living but helping people in a traumatic situation—to be trusted in that moment is tremendous,” Kim said.  “I knew a landlord who decided to sell a home he had rented out to a veteran.  Selling the home would mean the veteran would have to move. The landlord asked me if the renter would be able to raise money to buy the house.  I told him about the Homes for Heroes program, and he decided to sell the house at a price well within the veteran’s grasp. We closed on that home in 30 days.  I just cried.”  Kim tells of another incident where, through Homes for Heroes, she helped an 87-year-old widowed United States Marine veteran purchase his first home.  “I now have ten years with this organization” she said. “My favorite thing in this program is serving needs across multiple generations.  I have been involved long enough to help grandparents, moms, dads and kids”

In a mission of this magnitude, teamwork is key. Kim is thankful for her local team. They recently prepared 100 goody bags for personnel at Shepherd Air Force Base and presented 100 gift baskets during Hero Mania to all of the heroes they could. As Kim said, “These are our families.  This is our community.”     

Building on the exponential strength of numbers, Homes for Heroes partners with other organizations to fulfill its mission.  Among these are the Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Volunteer Fire Council. Kim is especially grateful for one of their most recent partnerships. “Homes for Heroes recently gave a $10,000 grant to Zechariah Cartledge who started running one mile with an American flag in honor of each injured first responder.  Running 4 has now given $200,000 to the families of first responders who have fallen in the line of duty.”

A home is more than a roof over one’s head, a shelter from the storm.  America’s homes are the foundation of our communities. A home represents sanctuary in which peace of mind, rest, joy, acceptance and love may thrive. The security of a home provides stability to, in turn, reach out to our fellow man. Providing these things for someone in need changes lives and nurtures communities. 

 If you know a community hero who could use support in obtaining a home, or for more information on how to contribute to the Homes for Heroes mission, visit their website  †

Summer 2022 Issue
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