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‘Decorate A Vet’ Program Met With High Praise

Entering its first year as a heavily volunteer-backed partnership, Decorate A Vet, from Thursday, Dec. 2, through Saturday, Dec. 4, introduced itself to the veteran residents of Falls Church. The project is a thoughtfully designed improvement service for homes by business owners Jeff Jones and Steven Sisler.The idea hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Jones, owner of Classic Stonescaping and Gardens. With an extension of family members who have served diligently, Jones and Sisler share a personal sentiment towards the nation’s military.

Entering its first year as a heavily volunteer-backed partnership, Decorate A Vet, from Thursday, Dec. 2, through Saturday, Dec. 4, introduced itself to the veteran residents of Falls Church. The project is a thoughtfully designed improvement service for homes by business owners Jeff Jones and Steven Sisler.The idea hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Jones, owner of Classic Stonescaping and Gardens. With an extension of family members who have served diligently, Jones and Sisler share a personal sentiment towards the nation’s military.

“My godfather was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, my father served on the first nuclear sub in the navy, and my uncle was a Vietnam vet. For me, this isn’t just for business. It’s personal”.

In the month of November, Jones and Sisler worked together with the idea to, in the midst of the holiday season, give aid to veterans by improving the exterior appearance of their homes. At the time of only being a month old, the finalization of the plan came to fruition just in time to meet a deadline that everyone involved was enthusiastic about.

Although there were challenges with selecting homes, as the program is new and faced with its own measured trials, Decorate A Vet selected six homes from a list of 12 through the American Legion Post 130. Of the six, three were cleaned thoroughly and the remaining three were cleaned and decorated.

Jones said that the process included previewing local veteran homes and determining which needed considerable attention by evaluating the conditions and the stories provided by the local newspaper.

“Going forward, we’d like to clean and decorate more homes, and hopefully we get the vital help,” said Brian DeCelle, director of marketing and sales for Sisler’s Stone. “This year, the intention was to start off small, but we’d definitely like to expand it when we go into our second year.”

Sisler, whose company sells stone products to the landscaping industry, provides a significant percentage of product for Jones. Together, they were able to demonstrate and reach out through their own inventories alongside eight donating sponsors, one of which was able to provide dinner for the veterans.

DeCelle said the public’s opinion of the project hasn’t been anything less than grateful.

“I was taking pictures yesterday and one of the neighbors stepped outside and said, ‘she really needed help and I’m glad you guys came out and did this. I was a veteran myself,'” DeCelle said.

Lenore Karnis, mother of Thomas E. Karnis, diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy who was in the Army and previously in Iraq, admitted that while she would like to see more of similar programs she was ecstatic about the unconditional forth giving her family was able to receive from the Decorate A Vet establishment.

“This is fantastic. We do very little decorating around the house but we’ve never had anything like this. You would have to see the work done to truly appreciate it,” said Karnis.

In the state of Virginia, veterans continue to statistically outnumber a large amount of other states in the U.S. While acknowledging the existing size and expected rapid growth, Jones is warm to the idea of expanding Decorate A Vet.

“Virginia is the second fastest gaining state of Veterans and within the state of Virginia, Northern Virginia is the fastest,” said Jones. “It’s the perfect place to start it and I think it can grow pretty fast when accompanied to the tune of local people coupled with local companies helping local veterans.”

Decorate A Vet’s mission statement currently stands at, “Decorating for the Holidays.”

However, with the success it has unraveled, what the future holds for the organization has almost guaranteed its stamp on the Washington Metropolitan area.

“What we’ll do next year is try to advance to five or six houses that we’d clean and decorate,” said Jones. “The program that we’d also like to bring together is a corporation sponsored event sometime during the year for a particular veteran. Easter, Fourth of July, and other holidays is also another idea we’d like to expand,” said Jones.

Now that the work has temporarily concluded, Decorate A Vet and its volunteers have grown a little wary of what appears to be a retardation in excitement. Its Facebook page received an astonishing number of supporters and frequent visitors before the debut. The program feels that the same people who came out to support have to remain committed.

“In a matter of about a week and a half we had almost 700 people following our page and since the event it started to dwindle down”, said Jones. We need to generate and sustain the momentum especially with going into Christmas.”