Hometown Help for Heroes
Fishers Program Takes Care of Local Families With Deployed U.S. Military Members
Photographer: Ron Wise
When members of the U.S. military are deployed overseas, their significant others and children are often left shouldering additional daily household burdens. That was certainly the dilemma Fishers resident and Navy Reserve member Elliott Hultgren and his family faced in 2015 when he was notified of an upcoming year-long deployment to Djibouti, Africa.
“My wife and I had three kids at that point, and we have four now,” says Hultgren, who currently serves as Fishers deputy mayor of administration. “I realized my wife would be doing so many of the chores on her own, and there was a sense of guilt with leaving a whole pile of stuff in your loved one’s lap. All the little things like house chores and mowing the lawn pile up with children in the picture.”
Mayor Scott Fadness and Fishers Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Eric Pethtel had gotten wind of Hultgren’s deployment news, and began discussing doing something nice for his family during his absence.
“Mayor Fadness said we should just send some of our Public Works team to mow Elliott’s lawn and take care of shoveling the driveway,” Pethtel recalls. “It was just a casual answer during a conversation we were having, but that was the spark of the idea, and we ended up going through the legal steps and came up with a plan.”
That plan became formally known as the Fishers Hometown Help for Heroes (HHFH) initiative, and, since 2015, 20 Fishers families in Hultgren’s situation have received DPW assistance according to Pethtel. The program’s services include driveway and sidewalk snow removal within 24 hours after snow accumulation of more than two inches and lawn mowing and trimming services on an as-needed basis during summer months.
Any family living in Fishers with at least one head of its household deployed in a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces is eligible for the program for the duration of the deployment.
“It may not seem like much, but when you put yourself in our shoes having multiple kids and so much going on, it provides a sense of comfort and support to my wife and to me,” Hultgren says. “It’s huge to not have to worry over the logistics of those kinds of things, like getting the lawn taken care of, and focus on doing what I need to be doing on my mission.”
“It’s part of our daily work duty — we do all the things like taking care of city hall and the city parks, and then we take care of our active military,” he says, adding that the DPW has helped as many as seven military households at one time since 2015. “I’m proud of our team. We have people that are eager to be the ones to do this work for our military families here.”
Of all the programs and initiates the Fishers DPW has offered to residents during Pethtel’s 27 years with the department, he says the Hometown Help for Heroes is his favorite.
“I thoroughly enjoy being able to provide this to our local families,” he says. “I have two sons in the military, and I know what it’s like to have them away. I’m very proud of our team and their willingness to step up and do this work.”
Hultgren hopes the initiative catches on in cities across the country via social media and word-of-mouth.
“In the military, you get to meet people from all 50 states. I told everyone I could about this program and from what I could see, no one else is doing this in any other cities,” Hultgren says. “People were blown away that my city back home was out mowing lawns and shoveling snow. We would love every county and city to adopt this. We’d love for it to be the start of something big.”
To learn more about the Hometown Help for Heroes initiative and apply for assistance, call the Fishers Department of Public Works at 317-595-3160 or visit fishers.in.us/685/Hometown-Help-for-Heroes for more information or to apply.