Thanks to a new program, veterans coming home to their families are vacationing in the Finger Lakes. Property owners are letting vets borrow their homes for free.
Meet the Petrus family from Clyde, New York. Richard served in Iraq for a year. He and his wife Joanna, and their 2-year-old son Paul are taking advantage of the Finger Lakes Vacation Homes for Veterans.
"I think it's an excellent opportunity for returning veterans to get a break. Most of us work multiple jobs, go to school full-time so it's nice to get away for a little bit," said Richard Petrus.
This unique program started three months ago. People who rent or own property on the Finger Lakes allow returning veterans to vacation for free. Founder Joe Testa got the idea from a similar program in Florida"I thought about it. We have this incredible natural resource here not only Canandaigua Lake, but all of the Finger Lakes and I said there's an opportunity for this similar program to work in Upstate New York," said Joe Testa.
This is the fifth family that has taken part in the program. They say it's the perfect way to help the transition home.
"It can be difficult at times. It's really a new environment from what you're use to so it takes some time to get use to," said Petrus.
Finger Lakes Vacation Homes for Veterans works with the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester. It gives vets a chance to reconnect when they return home.
"We think this lake is part of heaven and that we are fortunate enough to be able to live here, but there are a lot of people that want to share this gift with others, and who could be more deserving than people who have served our country," said Testa.
"Hanging out by the water, relaxing, getting that quiet time," said Petrus.
"They want to help veterans and they want to say thank you. It's as simple as that," said Testa.
If you are interested in taking part in the program, you can call Joe Testa at 585-737-6592 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org