Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Finally getting off the floor: furnishing Valhalla

Living conditions have been a bit primitive, yet 
structural, safety, and accessibility improvements
dominated Valhalla's limited start-up budget. In the
case of the "Blue Room," spending money on paint
and getting rid of the wall flowers seemed to be a
more important priority than buying a bed frame.

Now designated as an indoor project for this 
winter, the Blue Room will be transformed by 
sunny-white paint and simple, rustic furniture.
Back in July Valhalla's first furniture purchase was a new queen sized mattress, a necessary essential that allowed Gordon and I to live on site while working on safety renovations and other projects. Our two trusty folding tables for our laptops (last year we traveled in 13 states around the country with them) and the addition of eight canvas camp chairs summed up the bare essentials here for the last several months.

It didn't make sense to spend money on furniture when doorways needed to be widened, the living room floor raised, a wet-room installed... the list went on and on (still does!).

Valhalla's first couch, delivered by (from left to right)
Paul Benitz with friends Gage, Courtney, and Tylor. 
But then one day a couple of weeks ago the phone rang. "My son Paul will be there in 15 minutes," Lindy Benitz announced, "with a gift for Valhalla, and y'all gotta get off that floor one way or another!" Paul and his friends turned up with Valhalla's first couch and a matching love seat - no foo-foo colors or ruffles either, just nice beige and green plaid (the same colors we intend on painting the exterior of the house soon).

Arkansas native Jarid Matthews being held aloft
by Sergeant Nick Olszewski in Gardez, Afghanistan.

A black and white version of this same photo was
published in our book Warrior Police, the profits
from which have been pledged to help support
the Valhalla pilot property and programs. 
While watching Valhalla's young civilian volunteers in action it was impossible not to remember another Arkansas friend who we first met in Gardez, Afghanistan last year. Specialist Jarid Matthews spent hours listening to our initial "crazy idea" for a Soldiers working retreat and was quoted in our book Warrior Police saying "I'll shovel lots of sh*t if I can go there!" His home town of Harrison is only about 25 minutes away from here, and we went there a few days ago to pick up the third twin bed for Valhalla's bunk house.

While it still needs paint, area rugs, side tables, foot lockers, curtains and privacy screens,
the bunkhouse now has three twin beds including the new one (left) bought from a family in Harrison.
Quality-used instead of brand-new often makes sense.
As Albert Einstein said, "If most of us are ashamed
of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more
ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies...
It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better
than the meat wrapped inside it." Luckily the "new"
furniture at Valhalla isn't either shabby or shoddy,
just clean, comfortable - and the numbers work too!
Then last week a small houseful of quality-used furniture came up for sale. An elderly local lady sold her house and most of the contents with it so she could move in with her daughter. It was a one-time opportunity so we pounced, paying a very reasonable flat price for a hide-a-bed couch, two recliners, coffee tables, a large bed, a dining room set with chairs, a filing cabinet for the office, two dressers, a large bag of cook books, an unbelievable number of sheet sets, and many small yet useful items.

The former Green Room (it had previously been painted with a shocking neon green) is one of two
private bedrooms where married couples will be able to stay. Someday it would be nice to push out
the outer wall about ten feet and replace the window with French doors that would open directly into
the park (currently the back yard which will become a beautiful park) yet this will do for now.
The new dining room table set will later be replaced with a long custom-made table with benches
made from timber harvested less than 100 yards away. The cabinets (right) will be moved to the other
side of the room (left) and the wall ripped out to so that people in the dining room can easily
interact with those working in the kitchen. In the interim it's wonderful to have this table!
The new hide-a-bed sofa (left) with the Benitz Family couch and love seat (right). The framed print
on the wall titled "Ever Vigilant: Protecting the People of Iraq" by Carlos Arguello shows various scenes of the 18th Military Police Brigade working with Iraqi citizens during their 2009 deployment.
The print was donated by Lt. Colonel and Valhalla board member Tom Lombardo, raising the bar pretty high on the quality and meaning of artwork to display at Valhalla. 

"Cats are not allowed on the furniture! Get off of there!"

Vixen snored softly in response. Joker briefly cracked his eyes open with a look that clearly said "Yeah, right. Whatever."

Our IRS application for nonprofit status is being processed, 
yet you can still donate to help Valhalla today!


  1. Glad to see the cats won one battle. You have been working hard since Sunday. Looks GREAT !!

  2. Couldn't have done it without your help Lindy. As for the cats... well, they're cute and all that, but why are you siding with them?! Gordon's gotten it into his head that since Vixen's little stomach is delicate (she's always been sickly since we found her half-starved with most of her poor tail chopped off), now they *both* need warm food made-to-order twice a day. Now they need full access to furniture as well? Holy cow!

  3. Hello Heros, I have something I think ya'll may be interested in. There is an organization call Quilts Of Valor Foundation that women and men who quilt from across our nation make beautiful quilts to be given to veterans and those currently. You can go on their website, www.quof.org and fill out a request to recive one of thier beautiful quilts. I requested on for my 96 yo father-in-law who served in Europe during WW II. Give them the info about your group and I feel sure they will be glad to make and send some of these beautiful quilts for your veterans.

    Hope to be able to send some form of support soon.

    Wanda Rogers

  4. it is already starting to look great! Its amazing how much a simple item like dinette tables or a new chair can really make all by its self