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New Mission: HEROES shows care with $10 million in donations

Jon Jerome, president of HEROES Care, started helping the military in 2003 after his two young daughters encouraged him to send care packages to servicemen and women.

"We put together 13 care packages in our house in High Ridge, Missouri," Jerome said. "We got thank you notes from that first batch of packages and decided to send more."

On Sept. 11, 2004, Jerome and 100 volunteers mailed 1,000 care packages containing 4.5 tons of materials to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The packages included toothbrushes, toothpaste, gloves with messages written on their fingers and used paperback books with notes written inside the front covers.

Amy Palmer, who wanted to supply deployed soldiers and their families with financial assistance, soon learned of Jerome's efforts and asked him to be the director of development for her nonprofit. He began working for the charity, which became known as HEROES Care, later in 2004. By 2007, Jerome had became the charity's president and felt it should expand its mission. Rather than simply doling out money to military families experiencing financial crises, he wanted to assign a volunteer to one family and have him or her serve its needs before, during and after deployment.

"I realized the service members didn't just need money," Jerome said. "They had other needs back at home that they worried about during deployment, like whether their families had enough food for each day."

Jerome named his new concept the Hometown Support Program, in which volunteers - called caregivers - provide military families in 25 states with moral support both during and after deployment. The caregivers receive more than 50 hours of training and commit to helping their assigned families for at least three years. This one-on-one program currently serves about 700 families and is sponsored by the donations HEROES Care receives. Jerome said the organization collected $10.1 million of cash and in-kind donations in 2013, the most recent year in which HEROES Care's income numbers are available, to serve the families it helps.

St. Louis, MO
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