Connie Blaney was living the good life, a six-figure job, a house paid off, and lots of travel and fun possible for a laid-back future.
Daniel “Dan” Garza was living a life of unsettledness, homeless after service in the Army, and not quite sure where his next meal was coming from.
Two people, two paths, and now, through the Liberty Manor for Veterans, a shared commitment to never rest easy until every veteran has a home.
At the Brandon ’86 Rotary Club meeting June 17, Blaney and Garza were on hand to receive a donation to help the organization that Blaney founded to aid veterans.
Liberty Manor today has five residential programs for veterans: homes in Pinellas County, Largo, Temple Terrace, the University area and Carrollwood.
“We will put an end to the homelessness situation for honorably discharged veterans,” Blaney said. “These guys and gals don’t need to be a day homeless. Not one day.”
Garza, who now serves as Liberty Manor’s executive director, said he was thankful for the helping hand.
“Technically, I am homeless, but she makes sure to it I have everything I need,” Garza said about Blaney, the organization’s chief executive officer. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. When I got to that point, all it took was a phone call and next thing I knew the things I had to worry about I didn’t have to worry about.”
Blaney said it’s not often that she comes across an Army Ranger in need, as was the case with Garza, but that any honorably discharged veteran will get her attention.
“Twenty-seven percent of our homeless population [in Hillsborough County] were, in fact, veterans,” she said of the time period she served on the board of directors for the Hillsborough County Homeless Coalition. “That’s pretty devastating.”
And that’s where Blaney stepped in — attaining homes for the homeless veterans.
“The first house I bought, with cash, with virtually my life’s savings,” she said. “The second one, I took out a lien against my own home. Third one, the same thing. The fourth one I procured a loan.”
Debt has become a way of life for her, but so, too, her mission to serve the men and women who served their country, she said.
“Before I met these veterans I was ready to retire,” Blaney said. “I had my own home in Carrollwood with a successful career, six-figure job.”
Because of what has become her life’s goal, Garza said he, too, has a renewed lease on life.
“I have never met anyone so stubborn in my life,” he said. “but I’ll take all that stubbornness if that’s what it takes to get what she wants for our veterans.”
As Garza put it: “If you get in her way of achieveing something to help veterans, she’ll let you know about it.”