Greater Tulsa Reporter
SERVICE GRATITUDE: The Folds of Honor Foundation’s Honor Cottage sits at Skiatook Lake and welcomed its first guests in July.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Major Dan Rooney created the Folds of Honor Foundation six years ago as a means to help families of veterans wounded or killed in action. He didn’t necessarily plan to expand outside of that vision. However, due to the local and national community’s embracing, that is exactly what he has had to do. And Rooney can’t say that he’s surprised.
“We all feel a sense of obligation to create a foundation that will be here for generations as we continue defending our freedom,” he says.
Most recently, Folds of Honor Foundation has made news regarding the completion of the very first Honor Cottage, located on Skiatook Lake. The cottage, the first of its kind in the country, owes its creation to a number of individuals eager to show their gratitude to servicemen and women.
Ron Howell, owner of CrossTimbers at Skiatook Lake, donated the last lakeside lot in his development to the foundation. Growing up around the time of the Vietnam War and having a father who served in World War II made lasting and deep impressions on Howell.
After the Mannford, Okla., wildfires in August 2012, Brett Biery, co-owner of Hunter Homes Inc., and one of his development partners began thinking of ways to help in future disaster situations. “We wanted to support a nonprofit organization with a gift that would be ongoing, that would pay off long into the future, like a revenue-generating cottage,” says Biery, not unlike the cottages found in CrossTimbers.
After some discussion, Rooney, an acquaintance of Nunley’s, and the Folds of Honor Foundation came up. Nunley arranged a meeting with Rooney, and the idea transformed from no longer “a revenue-generating project but something of a higher calling,” says Biery. “It’s all about healing and rebuilding.”
Planning of the project began in late 2012 and construction began in March of this year and was completed five months later. The cottage had its first occupant in mid-July.
The 1,200-square-foot cottage offers what Rooney terms “blue, therapeutic views” and sits at the end of the CrossTimbers development, offering a quiet oasis for reflection and healing, which is the ultimate goal of the cottage, says Rooney. “There are one million dependents of veterans killed or wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” he continues. “We want to do whatever we can to bring some hope and light to those families.”
Biery and his Hunter Homes business partner, Brad McMains, oversaw the design and construction of the cottage, recruited suppliers and contractors, and solicited financial support for the project. Many local companies got in line to offer donations to cover the $350,000 project. “The response was overwhelmingly heartfelt,” says McMains. “We had people we don’t normally employ calling us to help.”
“I am surprised and humbled,” says Rooney of the community’s response to the cottage and the foundation as a whole. “I feel . . . proud that this is all happening here in Oklahoma with our traditional values that this country was founded on—God and country without apology.”
Since the idea of the Honor Cottage first began, word has spread far past state lines. Plans are in the works to construct a number of lakeside honor cottages around the country.
During the next year, Howell plans to construct a second local Honor Cottage—this one to be a floating cottage—on Keystone Lake.
Also stemming from this project was the inauguration of Patriot Marina Days, a concept similar to Patriot Golf Days, in which, during the fourth of July holiday, those visiting marinas have the opportunity to donate to the foundation. Howell estimates more than $1 million in proceeds were earned during this year’s inaugural event, and he expects proceeds to grow each year.
“We are not nearly paying them (veterans) back, but we want them to know they’re appreciated and that we haven’t forgotten,” says Howell.