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One Couple Is Honoring Our Heroes By Renovating and Building Homes For Veterans

Moved to help uplift veterans, Andrew and Shela Gornik are changing lives — one new house at a time

When Andrew Gornik visited a WWII veteran, he was saddened to find the elderly man sharing one small room with two other men, each with just enough room for a bed and dresser. This is no way to treat our heroes, Andrew thought. In that moment, he made it his mission to help our veterans live the comfortable and happy lives they deserve. Here, Andrew shares the uplifting story of how he and his wife, Shela, began building homes for veterans as the ultimate “Thank you for your service.”

Taking action to help our heroes

Though not a veteran himself, Andrew Gronik has always held deep respect for those who have served our country. He and his wife, Shela, taught their children from an early age to always thank any veteran they encountered. So, when in the fall of 2021, a friend asked if he would accompany him to visit a World War II veteran, Andrew jumped at the chance to give his heartfelt thanks to the man.

But when they arrived, Andrew’s heart fell to find the elderly man sharing a bedroom and bathroom with two other men at a communal home that took his pension and Social Security and gave him just $50 a month. The best dinner he usually got was plain spaghetti.

“I was taken aback. It was insulting,” Andrew tells Woman’s World. “These people are heroes. I thought, ‘We can do better than this.'”

When Andrew got home and told Shela, she shared his sadness, but told her husband, “You can complain all day long or you can roll up your sleeves and do something about it.”

And, together, that’s just what the Latrobe, Pennsylvania, couple did.

A heartfelt project

After praying on it, Andrew and Shela decided they wanted to provide good, low-rent housing for veterans. Having a construction business, AS Homes, they had building know-how. But their dream of building homes for veterans would be separate from their personal business and funded out of pocket.

“We used our savings. We felt that strongly about the project,” Shela says. “Even our kids pitched in to raise money with lemonade stands.”

Shela and Andrew Gornik's daughter sells lemonade to raise money for Heroes Never Alone, Inc.
Shela and Andrew Gornik’s daughter sells lemonade on the side to raise extra money for Heroes Never Alone, Inc.Heroes Never Alone, Inc.

In December 2021, their new enterprise Heroes Never Alone, Inc. got underway when Andrew and Shela bought two properties in western Pennsylvania. The first was a vacant 5-acre plot of land, on which they planned to build new veteran homes from the ground up.

But soon after, they found another property in Ligoneir, PA, that had an existing cottage and house that just needed renovation. They bought this three-acre property, too, and decided to focus their efforts on fixing up the cottage.

Andrew working to get the house ready  building homes for veterans
Andrew working to get the house ready to bless a veteranHeroes Never Alone, Inc.

“This way we could help someone sooner,” Andrew explains. “With a renovation, a veteran could move in within months rather than a year or more.” And Shela knew just they veteran they would help.

A most deserving recipient

Shela had been working as the manager of a townhouse community and befriended a couple who lived there: a Vietnam-era veteran named Bob Lesko and his wife, Joanie. Bob, 82, had served stateside from 1962 to 1966 in the Air Force, caring for planes that were transporting troops and materials to Vietnam.

Bob suffers from hand arthritis and has had several knee surgeries. Joanie had provided much of Bob’s care until she suffered a few strokes and needed help herself.

“Bob was very worried about their future,” says Shela. But after talking it over with Andrew, they agreed Bob and Joanie would be their first recipients. “Bob’s face flooded with relief when I told him, ‘Don’t worry. We’re going to take care of you,'” Shela recalls, explaining their mission to begin building homes for veterans.

And she kept her word.

Related: “It Gives Veterans the Thanks They Deserve,” Says Teen Who Builds Memorial

Andrew with house recipients, Bob and Joanie Lesko building homes for veterans
Andrew with house recipients, Bob and Joanie LeskoHeroes Never Alone, Inc.

Building homes for veterans

By May 2022, renovations were underway, and that September, Bob and Joanie moved into the Ligonier home now called Lesko Cottage, which is custom fitted with disability-friendly features like a walk-in jacuzzi tub. The closets are structured so the couple don’t have to over-reach and includes a bench where they can sit while dressing.

Not only did they get a nice, affordable place to live, Heroes Never Alone, Inc. arranged for someone to help the couple with errands and household tasks.

“Oh, my god, my prayers are answered!” Bob exclaimed.

The renovated house building homes for veterans
The house Andrew and Shela transformed into a home for Bob and JoanieHeroes Never Alone, Inc.

Andrew and Shela have since turned Heroes Never Alone, Inc, into an official 501c3 nonprofit. Plans are now underway to turn the house on that property into a duplex and to build three to four 800-square-foot mini houses on the vacant land they purchased. All the housing will fit ADA standards to meet the needs of veterans with disabilities.

The Gorniks will work with each veteran to set a reduced rent that is affordable but hope to one day be able to offer free housing.

Although the focus is on housing, Andrew and Shela’s mission is to elevate the quality of life for our veterans, whatever that means for each veteran. For instance, they recently heard about a veteran who didn’t have hot water for three weeks and bought him a new hot-water tank.

They also take time to visit veterans in need of encouragement and help out in any way they are needed at veteran functions. The only requirement for getting help from Heroes Never Alone is that a person be a veteran, either actively serving or retired.

“You can say ‘Thank you’ until you’re blue in the face, but this is our action — to take care of those who sacrificed so much for all of us,” Andrew says.

Adds Shela, “They risked their lives for our freedom. We think about the time veterans spend away from their loved ones — the crying, the prayers, the distance. They’re doing that so we can be free. We just really felt like we had to do something to repay them.”

Read on for more inspiring stories of helping veterans…

Garden of Hope: One Mother’s Mission to Help Marine Son & Other Veterans Heal and Grow

For Veterans, These Majestic Horses Are Healers of the Soul and Spirit

A Volunteer and Military Vet Find ‘Furever’ Homes for Heroic Canine Veterans

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