Donnie Davis knows firsthand how much a warm welcome can mean to veterans of our Armed Forces.
During his time in the Air Force, Davis served as an honor guard at military funerals, helping to remember and acknowledge soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. But after returning home to work as a police officer and a pastor, Davis found that those who needed help the most were being ignored.
Davis was surprised to learn that, according to the Veteran's Administration's 2012 Suicide Data Report, 22 veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder take their lives every day. As a veteran and a police officer who has grappled with PTSD himself, Davis felt a personal connection to these men and wanted to help lower that number.
Exactly how he could help wasn't clear at first. Then, someone suggested Davis should build a campground for his church. He realized that he could buy a small plot of land in Franklinville, New Jersey and build something much more meaningful: a community that supports and empowers veterans.
And the home that the pastor has built for his fellow veterans is totally unique...
Called "Operation Safe Heaven," Davis built his camp with help from the crowd-funding website GoFundMe, where he's raised more than $230,000 so far.
The 277-acre campground features four log cabin-style tiny homes, which pack all the comforts of home into 300-square-feet. Davis has also stocked the homes with kitchen supplies, furniture, and everything else his guests could need at absolutely no charge to them.
How long the veterans stay at the camp is up to them - a few weeks or a few years, there's no time limit - but they know they'll be taken care of during their stay.
“We supply everything,” Davis told People. “Nothing is used. Unless it’s brand new, we won’t take it.” Veterans also get things you can't put a dollar amount on: a "buddy" to help them get back on their feet, counseling, and job opportunities including apprenticeships.
Operation Safe Haven even uses therapy horses, and the organization is training a litter of therapy dogs. A fifth tiny home is also being built, and as Davis looks at everything he's accomplished even he can't explain the camp's success.
“When we bought this, someone asked how I am going to do this, and I said I don’t know,” he said. “It’s just faith. Everyone’s coming together and supporting this, and it’s great.”
You can support Operation Safe Haven here.
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