Just after Military Appreciation Month last year, Maria and Larry Phillips found themselves standing outside a hardware store, struggling against the familiar enemy of home repairs.

However, this trip to Home Depot came with the baggage of years of rejection. As a disabled veteran, Larry had been denied help from a myriad of sources and was facing yet another obstacle in the journey toward home repairs.

Unfortunately, the Phillips are not the only couple forced to engage in this economic balancing act: hundreds of veterans must decide between a healthy home and economic security.

Last July, just after that fruitless trip to the hardware store, the Phillips decided to take matters into their own hands.

After contacting the Foundation Group, a nonprofit that helps individuals navigate the intrepid labyrinth of Internal Revenue Service forms to start their own program, the American Hero Initiative took its first steps into the world.

“Nobody should go through what we’ve gone through,” said Maria Phillips, recalling how difficult it was to receive even the most basic financial aid. “Veterans need help, and they can’t always afford to wait for it.”

The American Hero Initiative has been relying on the aid of the community and Internet networking to get itself off the ground.

In addition to working with local businesses to establish partnerships and sponsorships, the Phillips have been working closely with existing organizations to maximize aid to veterans within the community.

Associates of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have been working with them weekly on Thursday, called “Veterans Help Day.” The couple has also established a Givebutter web page to receive donations from the community.

Once the foundation is fully active, the Phillips plan to grow the initiative to encompass the Central Valley, not just Los Banos. Maria Phillips explains, “We’re covered for the entire state of California, so our hope for the next five years is to expand north and south.”

The American Hero Initiative is the latest in a growing community effort to help disabled people across the state, and those interested in donating or learning more about them can find everything on their web page, www.theamericanheroinitiative.org.