By Lynette Carrington
As a military service member, Founder of Operation Enduring Gratitude Charlie Ellis has experienced first-hand the trials and tribulations of being in the service. He has also experienced camaraderie from his fellow servicemen and women that will stick with him for a lifetime. With 10 years in the Arizona Army National Guard and soon to be re-enlisting in the Air National Guard, Charlie is devoted to country and to others.
As a contractor in the West Valley, he would often see homes in his neighborhood that were in definite need of repairs and improvements and decided to do something about it. Charlie had been volunteering his time to an organization called Maryvale Revitalization Corporation (MRC). Applying his contractor trade, he would join in on work needing to be done to homes in the area and help complete repairs and projects in order to help homeowners who were struggling with residences that needed some TLC and curb appeal. After doing this for some time, Charlie asked MRC, ‘Hey, how come we don’t do anything specifically for veterans?’ Operation Enduring Gratitude was founded soon after in November 2013 and received its formal 501 (c) (3) status in April 2014. “Dwight Amery of Maryvale Revitalization Corporation is a giant in the West Valley and by far my hero of heroes,” Charlie explains. “He has this incredible knack of inspiring people to do great things. My inspiration for founding Operation Enduring Gratitude comes through him and the MRC.”
In making repairs to veteran’s homes, improvements can include anything from fixing a broken front door, replacing a window or fixing an outer fence or wall, to a fresh coat of paint, new drywall, building a wheelchair ramp to help outfit a home to accommodate a vet with a physical disability and even extreme home makeovers. Operation Enduring Gratitude has completed one extreme home makeover and additional home makeovers will continue to be done as a part of the nonprofit’s future projects. As a special division of Operation Enduring Gratitude, Operation Ramp Up specifically identifies veterans who need wheelchair access ramps built at their homes. Operation Enduring Gratitude is happy to be of service. “If anyone ever needs help, we will at least go out and take a look,” adds Charlie. “I make no promises other than effort and to see what we can do.”
On October 3, there will be a fundraiser at Roadrunner Restaurant & Saloon at 47801 N. Black Canyon Highway in New River to help raise funds for some specific homes in need of repair. “The concept behind that is we need to generate as much excitement as we can for the restaurant for projects that the organization has that are in the New River area,” states Charlie. “I want the funds raised in New River to stay in that community. A percentage of all receipts will be donated to the foundation.” The owners of the homes that are to be worked on will be present at
the event. The fundraiser will include a cornhole tournament, silent auction and great food and drinks. Local gals the Vintage Vixens of Arizona will be on hand to assist with duties at the event, also.
One veteran lost his mobile home in July 2014 in a fire and it was an entire loss. Operation Enduring Gratitude got a group of approximately 20 to 30 volunteers to go clean up and clear the site and Operation Enduring Gratitude will now work to rebuild the home. Charlie also helped to get a new American flag that will be used to replace the one that was on the homeowner’s father’s casket in his military burial. That homeowner’s father was a WWII vet. Charlie is arranging to have the new flag taken to the veteran’s former unit and flown at its post for at least one day before having it returned to the family. Charlie was also able to salvage some stars off of the original flag burned in the fire and he will now incorporate those into a display with the new flag, with five of the burned flag’s stars representing the veteran’s five grandchildren. It is those grand patriotic gestures that often mean so much.
Charlie has big plans for his organization and will hold ongoing fundraising events throughout the year. Next up, he will hold Operation We Can that will be a food drive held October 19 through November 11 at high school campuses in the Maryvale area. He is also working on bringing some larger businesses on board to be collection points for the general public.
“A complete home makeover is the crown jewel and everyone gravitates towards that because they know what it is,” says Charlie. But no repair is too small. The organization will accept any number of requests for repairs on veteran’s homes, particularly in the West Valley.
“There’s a place for national charities,” says Charlie. “America would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for national charities. But there comes a point where, if I take care of my neighbors, I don’t need the national charities. If we all help each other at the local level, we don’t need the big conglomerates. What I’m trying to do is inspire neighbors to take care of neighbors.”
For additional information about the organization or to find out how you can donate time, services or supplies, visit www.OperationEnduringGratitude.org. Another great way to get up-to-date information is through the Operation Enduring Gratitude Facebook page.