Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit that has provided mortgage-free homes to military veterans for 16 years, announced it is seeking to expand the nationwide program to include police, firefighters, and other emergency first responders.

The organization, incorporated in New York, filed its plans to expand the home program with the state attorney general's Charities Bureau. While Building Homes for Heroes cannot currently accept donations to benefit first responders, it expects to receive state approval soon, allowing fundraising for the new program by the end of the year.

“Our goal will always still be to gift, modify, and construct one home, every 11 days, on average,” says Building Homes for Heroes founder Andy Pujol. “That will never change. But our organization was founded with the goal of supporting our heroes who sacrificed so much to defend our freedom. That relates to not only our nation’s veterans, but also our heroic police officers, firefighters, and other emergency first responders who proudly don their uniform and risk all to keep us safe.”

The move to expand its mission—a decision unveiled the day before the anniversary of Sept. 11—came as the organization marked a milestone 300th home, gifted to Army veteran Jonathan Merchant. He had just returned from service in Bosnia when he suffered a quadriplegic spinal cord injury in a car accident.

Courtesy Building Homes for Heroes

At the recent gifting ceremony, Merchant and his wife, Stephanie, received an ADA-modified, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home constructed by Texas home builder Highland Homes in partnership with Hillwood Communities, a Perot company.

Situated in Pecan Square, a Hillwood development in Northlake, Texas, it is the second home in the Building Homes for Heroes' 2022 campaign, which gifts, modifies, and constructs 11 homes in 11 weeks to honor Sept. 11 and Veterans Day.

“This unbelievable gift is more than just a home,” says Merchant. “It’s the freedom financially to start a family, physically to be able to grow our family. It’s the key to making dreams in our heart come to fulfillment and doing for us something we couldn't do on our own.”

Next year, Building Homes for Heroes hopes to gift its 343rd home around Sept. 11 in honor of the 343 members of the New York City Fire Department who died on Sept. 11, 2001.