When HeroHomes co-founder Jason Brownell met Vainuupo Avegalio, he knew right away that he wanted to help provide him with a home.
The retired U.S. Army Sergeant, who goes by the nickname AV, was homeless and spending his income on helping other veterans battling post traumatic stress. He also volunteers at correctional facilities and works with at-risk youth to help prevent suicide through his art and poetry workshops.
“A lot of people cannot express themselves verbally because of the trauma, and I am trying to give them an outlet through art,” Avegalio said. “Some kids haven’t opened up for years and I guide them to open up through art. Whatever they need I provide for them.”
Brownell hopes that by providing Avegalio with permanent housing, it will help him expand his mission to help others.
Avegalio says therapists are often surprised by how he is able to connect with people.
“With art, you can tell your story and not open your mouth one time,” he said.
He has been sleeping in his car as he travels around the country helping others. The income he receives from the Army is used to for his workshops and supplies.
His new home — expected to be completed this spring — is located in Village Case in Purcellville. Brownell is working with sponsors such as Belfort Furniture to help completely furnish the home and a basement area is being built out to serve as his art studio.
Bluemont Vineyard held a fundraising event for HeroHomes in November and raised $4,200. They presented a check on Jan. 8 at the homesite.
Hailey and Kate Zurschmeide of Bluemont Vineyards and Great Country Farms said they hoped the proceeds from their fundraiser will help the project and that it makes a difference.
“This is awesome what you are doing and thank you. This is what keeps us going,” HeroHomes co-founder Matt Lowers said.
HeroHomes, a nonprofit, was established in 2017 to give veterans the ability to live independently and to provide for their future. For more information or to contribute to HeroHomes, visit herohomesloudoun.org.