Here comes the bride. She’s worried about her soon-to-be groom’s deployment. With money tight and stress building, she is also troubled about affording a nice wedding dress, or any dress at all, for a ceremony she may even be apprehensive about having, at the moment.
Heidi Janson, who is the founder and CEO of Brides Across America, found a way to help out women in this predicament when a form of motivation came to her in 2008. “I was working with another charity to help Afghanistan women to provide education and came across a soldier’s story who felt forgotten there,” Heidi shares with us at VA Home Loan Centers. “This was my inspiration to want to make a difference and say ‘thank you’ for their service.”
Their service in providing military brides a free wedding gown is helping to fulfill dreams for those in need, Heidi says. “These giveaway events, called Operation Wedding Gown, are held twice a year and are held at participating salons throughout the United States.”
Wanting to show gratitude to soldiers, as well as bring bridal salons all over America together to show military support, Heidi works with a staff of 5 board members, 5 staff and 2 interns. “I do all the coordination of all the programs,” Heidi states. “Managing all operations of the organization.”
Other than her experience with the Afghanistan women charity, Heidi draws from other pools of military inspiration. “My brother-in-law is a former marine, but many of my friends come from military families,” we are told.
Brides Across America has gotten a lot of positive attention, including being featured in People Magazine, NBC Nightly News, and most recently, an appearance on the Steve Harvey show. She also remembers another great moment in her charity work.
“I would say going to the White House and being honored among 20 other charities,” Heidi recalls. “Meeting Dr. Biden and Michelle Obama was an honor.”
Unlike the dresses that get donated, it is not always glamorous running Brides Across America. Aside from managing two businesses and working until 11 at night every day, Heidi says finding the space to store these dresses and dealing with difficult landlords are major challenges.
“We house all our donations and have moved three times, as we have outgrown,” Heidi said.
“We just moved into our new storage space and had two major leaks that damaged over 100 wedding gowns.”
The cons definitely justify the pros, in Heidi’s mindset. “I think meeting people is the best and hearing the stories,” she explains. “That is the major benefit and making their dreams come true.”
She told us her mother’s influence and growing up in the wedding industry fuels her. She is happy that her mom “always has the answers and she helps see the future of the organization.” With a string of events coming up in July, you would think this advantageous woman needs all the motivation she can get.
“I have always been a self-motivator, but the brides and couples keep me going,” she expresses. “To know I can make one person’s life happier is the best reward ever.”
“We support our active duty and veterans,” Heidi wishes for everyone to know, above all else. “All we want is for military brides to celebrate their special day without financial burdens.”
Heidi also emphatically agrees that all veterans, and active duty, need to educate themselves on their benefits, including VA Home Loans. You can contact us here or call us at 888-573-4496 for more info about owning a home with VA benefits!
Want to help out Brides Across America with much needed donations and moral support? Visit their main site by clicking here. Like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter, or check out what they are up to on Instagram.