July 24, 2024

The white clapboard Homestead house received some much-needed attention as veterans and their families came together as part of the Back-to-Work Bootcamp for veterans to renovate the old staple of Maine West history.
Occurring Oct. 6- 7, the Back-to-Work Bootcamp aimed to accomplish two goals: renovating the Homestead farm house located beyond the stadium along Howard Street and helping veterans and their families adjust when coming back to the Des Plaines community.
Rivers Casino is a key sponsor of the Back-to-Work Bootcamp, and they are helping to foster both goals of the program. “I hope veterans and their military spouses find confidence and understand that their skills that they have built while in the military or supporting a military family member are vital to communities and businesses,” said Marne Deithorn, vice president of Rivers Casino who is helping to oversee the renovation.
The Back-to-Work Bootcamp is an employment readiness program “for transitioning military service members and veterans who either are looking for their first career or looking for a change of career,” Deithorn said. Since its founding in 2017, the Back-to-Work Bootcamp has been helping veterans find their footing after their military service, with an emphasis on local projects that benefit a school or town. “When you are in the military, you have that sense of purpose, so when you transition out you still look for that sense of purpose,” Deithorn said. It is through the group’s focus on community service that renovating Homestead house became the organization’s next project. “We like to support our local communities because our communities support veterans so well;we thought this was a perfect match for us,” Deithorn said.
Over the course of those two October days, veterans in the Back-to-Work Bootcamp swept through the Homestead house, giving it a new coat of paint, patching up the drywall, fixing up the electrical outlets, and improving not only the looks of the old and weathered building, but also improving its function for the personal development class that uses the old farmhouse to teach about home-based skills. “We use the homestead for that class, we may go over and use the washer and dryer to teach kids how to do the laundry, we may make a recipe there to teach kids how to prepare food, we would do the dishes there to teach them how to wash dishes and clean up afterwards,” Life Skills Program teacher Jane Holper said. The veterans who took part in the project are proud of their work, and hope that the students of Maine West feel the same. “My hope is that when they come here they feel like love went into it – that we are not just here to volunteer because we have to for a program but that we are here because we want to,” veteran Sergio Ward said. And that hope comes true as the Life Skills program looks forward to using the renovated Homestead. “We’re thrilled. We are very, very excited about it. i’ve already been over there and seen some of the new paint, and it is cleaned and it is gonna be great. There’s new furniture coming and we had a new stove put in, once everything is done it’s gonna be really exciting for the students to be able to use and all the classes that we have over there,” Holper said.

Helping renovate the Homestead house is an extension of the kind of selflessness demanded of all military members – putting their country above themselves. “We never plan to get rich, we never plan to have a smooth career, no day is ever the same. You do it because you love it. It’s all about leaving things better than you find it,” Ward said. “If you can go through life and can leave any moment or any place better than you have found it, that’s what it’s like being in the service.”

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