Removing tons of snow on early mornings from a stranger’s driveway sounds simple enough to John Brojakowski. To a family with a breadwinner overseas for a year or more, it means everything.
With a blade on his truck, the plowing know-how and a new respect for military families, Brojakowski happily volunteered for SnowCare for Troops, a snow removal program now in its second year that helps out those left behind.
“Over the years, I never really paid attention to the military,” said the Niskayuna resident. “But as I got older I really grew to realize what these people do for us and came to respect it a lot more. I have a niece who just got back from Afghanistan and she was a nervous wreck while she was over there. I came to realize what the families at home go through.”
The snow removal program was created last year as an extension of Project EverGreen, a national outreach program that provides lawn and landscaping services for military families with a loved one or spouse serving in the armed forces. Partnering with The BOSS Snowplow, the program connects the families with local professionals and volunteers who offer their time to remove snow and ice, free of charge.
Brojakowski already plows his own driveway and his many kids’ driveways, he said.
He recalls first hearing about SnowCare while speaking with a colleague last year whose husband was away in the military.
“She was telling me about it, and I said, ‘Well, I’d be happy to do that.’ I figured the least I could do was drop my plow and help out.”
But he was never able to offer that service last year, and may not be able to this year. Though SnowCare for Troops has grown since it first began, many military families are still unaware of its existence and volunteers aren’t always able to be matched up with a regional family, said Program Manager Joy Westenberg.
In the Capital Region, zero families have signed up for the service.
“The volunteers are spread out all over New York state, and so are the families,” Westenberg said. “We have a tremendous volunteer bank to help these families, and they are so wanting to help, but the families don’t always know about it.”
Match-ups also depend on deployment time. So some families who needed the service last year don’t anymore, especially following the recent return of troops from Iraq.
Nationwide, the program grew from 800 volunteers last year to 1,067 as of this week. In New York state, 105 families have signed up since last year, and about 63 of those families are still eligible for the services.
“Our military leaves their families in our care, and these volunteers know that,” said Westenberg. “They truly believe that we have a responsibility here at home to support these families. And these volunteers, they’re ready to go.”
In her years working with the families, Westenberg said she’s spoken with service men and women prior to deployment and knows they appreciate the programs back home for their families. They like the care packages and the support networks, and they really love the little things.
“They tell me, 'You know what? We love all of the things that we get and all of the things you do for us. But the most important thing is supporting my family at home,’ ” she said. “It’s what they want and what they need.”
Families who qualify and interested volunteers can register with SnowCare online at projectevergreen.com/scft or call 888-611-2956.