01/01/18 — On the homefront, going above and beyond for their neighbors

View Archive

On the homefront, going above and beyond for their neighbors

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 1, 2018 5:50 AM

Submitted photo

Military spouse volunteer Alexia Hovis, far left, joins military spouse volunteer Lauren Bio, deployed spouse project recipient Samantha, and Kate Tinsley underneath the mantel where stockings have been hung with care.

Full Size

Submitted photo

Alexia Hovis and Lauren Bio help decorate the homes of deployed military members so that their dependents (spouses and children) can enjoy a holiday season made just a little bit brighter.

Little things in life are important -- little things like a drawing by a young child excited by her new Christmas tree.

It is a drawing that Kate Tinsley says she will keep for the rest of her life.

Tinsley is founder and executive director of the nonprofit Homefront Room Revival that is helping make Christmas merrier for the families of deployed service members through its Dec' The Deployment.

"We feel there are too many military spouses that do not decorate for the holidays, or feel the holidays at all, when their loved one is not there to celebrate the season," Tinsley said. "Our mission for Dec' The Deployment is to change this climate by energizing one military home at a time this holiday."

One of the projects was for a woman, with two children, whose husband has been deployed for 10 months.

She had put up a tree made of felt because she did not want to get all of the decorations out -- the woman's husband will be home in two months, and that is where her focus is, Tinsley said.

Dec' The Deployment volunteers helped get the decorations out.

"Her daughter at the end of it drew us a picture," Tinsley said. "I am going to have it for the rest of my life. We put art signs (in the tree). She actually put the signs in the picture. She handed it to me and said thank you so much for giving me a real tree.

"A lot of spouses just simply don't decorate for the holidays. They don't feel energized to do so -- to take all of their decorations out of the attic by themselves, to go get a tree with three kids at home. A lot of people don't feel energized to decorate home when their loved one is not at home. So the individuals that we choose through our selection process, we actually ask them what they need, What does your dream room look like?"

Tinsley asks for photos of what that might look like, and then she works with local artisans and veteran and military spouse volunteers.

One recently completed project was a Grinch front porch.

A wooden pallet was used to fashion a tree. The project also included signs and custom wreath.

"When it was over, the Grinch was pulling down lights," Tinsley said. "It is a showpiece and just enlightens the holidays and really helps boost morale for somebody going through a tough time."

Anybody can nominate a spouse through the Homefront Room Revival website, www.homefrontroomrevival.org.

A five-member board makes selections based on morale need, she said.

All free. All volunteer.

For the present the work has been in eastern North Carolina -- four projects were done at Seymour Johnson and at least two at Cherry Point.

Tinsley has been contacted by people from Jacksonville, Fort Bragg, even Virginia, asking how the program could be brought to them.

Her aspiration is for the program to grow into regional chapters across the world.

Homefront Room Revival and its Dec' The Deployment grew out of Tinsley's experiences as a United States Air Force veteran, as well as a military spouse.

"When my husband was deployed I had a really hard time, as many military spouses do with invisible illnesses -- anxiety, isolation, not really wanting to leave the house," she said.

She had children at home and did not want to take them to the store by herself.

She was not fully moved into her house.

Tinsley said that she was like a lot of military spouses who think they were constantly going to move out so they surround themselves with white walls and don't really want to hang pictures up.

"Then one day I decided I was just going to try and change my mentality because I am kind of spirally a little down the rabbit hole," she said. "I just started decorating -- painting my walls, putting picture up on my walls to just try to feel more like myself and comforted by the pieces of my loved one who was not there.

"I came to this understanding that I am active doing and I am feeling like there are not many programs that really have outreach efforts on a personal level with spouses going through a tough time -- why not create one?"

That is when she came up with idea to start Homefront Revival growing out of her garage assisted with about 20 volunteers.

"It is an organization that I started that strives to improve the military life cycle and boost morale for spouses going through a tough time through home decorating. We have three programs right morale boosting, custom room makeovers for spouses that are either going through deployment or just a tough time and can't find furniture or cannot afford furniture.

"We also do one or two furniture pieces upcycled for spouses who move and don't have a desk and want to go back to school. It is a very big artisan initiative. We do upcycle furniture pieces from individuals who are donating pieces."

It includes pieces that have been thrown away.

Volunteers participate in a "dumpster diving initiate" and try to make them beautiful for someone who doesn't have anything, she said.

"We also collaborate a lot with artisans to do a bunch of custom art pieces to comfort the military spouses that we do the rooms for," she said. "We are members of The National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military and feel our program is a unique way to relieve anxiety, and isolation, for military spouses that is unlike any other veteran organization in existence.

"We are based locally here in Goldsboro, and are comprised of mostly an all veteran and military spouse volunteer force stemming from the base."

To volunteer or donate, visit www.homefrontroomrevival.org or send email to kate@homefrontroomrevival.org.