BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — When Tiffany Eckert’s husband, Army Sgt. Andy Eckert, was killed in Afghanistan in 2005, she couldn’t imagine life without him – let alone earning her degree and paying for their two children’s college educations.
Thanks to Folds of Honor (FOH) – a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships for the children and spouses of fallen and disabled military veterans – Tiffany and her children, Myles and Marlee, are seeing their dreams come true.
Tiffany recently earned her bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University, where she will work on her master’s degree in public education this fall. FOH has aided Myles with tutoring and is covering tuition for both Marlee, a sophomore at BGSU, and Myles, who will start at BGSU this fall.
“The Folds of Honor mission has given me a platform of hope, lifelong friendships and the gift of higher education for myself, my children and others,” said Tiffany, a Waterville resident who has volunteered with FOH since 2014, traveling the country to speak about the organization.
On June 22, as she surveyed the crowd gathered in front of the “Home of the Brave” – a home built to raise funds for the Folds of Honor mission – Tiffany said she was in awe of how many people have come together to help others like her.
“This is not a fundraiser. It’s not a charity. It’s an investment in the survivors of our country’s bravest men,” Tiffany said. “I’m so thankful for what you are doing here. You have made an investment, and we are grateful.”
Steve Essig, the CEO of American Interiors, agreed.
“Wow. It’s unbelievable what all of you have done,” Essig told the audience, which included contractors, companies and volunteers who put time, money and materials into the home.
American Interiors launched a Northwest Ohio chapter of Folds of Honor six years ago. During a golf outing to benefit FOH, Stephanie Kuhlman, vice president of real estate and development at NAI Harmon Group, and her husband Doug Howard, owner of Doug Howard Builders, learned of the mission and were hooked. The two have sons who are currently in the military, and they understand the mission of supporting veterans.
Tom Schlachter, president of The Moses-Schlachter Group Inc. and Farnsworth Investors Inc., pitched the idea of building the home to Howard and Kuhlman.
Major sponsors for the home include Doug Howard Building Co., American Interiors, The Moses Schlachter Group, NAI Harmon, Carter Lumber and Owens Corning, along with 80 other companies and individuals who donated time, funds or materials.
Last weekend, those sponsors celebrated the unveiling of the home at 1730 Henline Way in Farnsworth Village in Waterville. And by the end of the weekend, the four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home with a finished basement and three-car garage was under contract for $510,000. Kuhlman plans to present a check to Folds of Honor during the American Interiors golf outing later this summer.
Even after the balloon arch and banners are gone, Tiffany said she’ll be reminded of the commitment that the community made to support military families each time she drives by the home.
“You are special, and we are grateful,” she said. “This is a tangible, physical reminder that people remember and care.”