At first blush, Darren Woodson and Breana Austin wouldn’t seem to have much in common. He’s a former Dallas Cowboys star safety from Phoenix, and she’s a Dallas native who’s served since 2010 as an administrative specialist with the Texas Army National Guard. Today, though, the pair’s paths will cross when the Cowboys’ newest Ring of Honor member takes hammer in hand to help build a new house for Austin in southeast Dallas’ historic Joppa neighborhood.
It’s all part of a Veteran’s Day effort by the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to illustrate the fact that, for too many military veterans, home ownership often is out of reach. Because of that the United Way has partnered with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, Texas Instruments, and other local corporations to host a special, so-called “Unite for Change” initiative involving Austin and the former Cowboy.
Over the course of 10 build dates under the “Unite” initiative, volunteers from Texas Instruments, Energy Future Holdings, and La Quinta Inns & Suites are helping erect a home for Austin and her 6-month-old son, Terran. At the event today Woodson and other volunteers will raise the walls on the structure, whose construction is expected to be completed by February (by which time Austin will have completed her military service).
“I’m proud to partner with United Way and Habitat for Humanity in providing a home for our heroes,” Woodson said. “We’re coming together as a community to serve those who’ve so bravely served us. They were there when we needed them, and now it’s our turn to give back.”
The local United Way has focused on veterans in other ways as well. Late last month, the agency hosted a networking event that brought together nonprofits, corporations, and others to discuss solutions for supporting struggling veterans. And, next week, the agency will hold a “financial empowerment” training session to help nonprofits mentor veterans on best financial practices.
“Veterans can face unique financial challenges when returning to civilian life—often struggling to find good jobs and secure stable homes,” said Jennifer Sampson, president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “United Way is committed to providing financial education and solutions to those who have served and sacrificed so much on our behalf.”
Austin, for example, is currently living in an apartment in a high-crime area, where she and her son face instability and uncertainty. She’s confident, though, that things will get better for them in their new Habitat home in Joppa, near the Great Trinity Forest. “My son will be able to play and grow up with other children,” Austin said.
Added Terri Grosh, worldwide employee engagement manager for Texas Instruments: “Too many veterans and their families have been unable to acquire a [home] that serves as a foundation for stability. Breana Austin’s story is a perfect example. We think the men and women who work to safeguard our nation deserve a secure future.”
With Texas Instruments as its presenting sponsor, the United Way’s “United for Change” initiative is focusing in several ways on improving health, education, and financial stability across North Texas.