NAVY FAMILY Makes Katy Their New Port of Call

COVER STORY |  By Henry Dibrell | Photos by Denise Mazza –

The Gilbert family: Kiara, Tyler and Caden.

When Personnel Specialist Petty Officer First Class, Aviation Warfare Tyler Gilbert got his orders to relocate to the Houston area, it was the start of another adventure that has included service in many assignments that were in undisclosed locations.

Tyler, wife Kiara and son Caden looked forward to the new assignment but didn’t know who to reach out for help finding their new home. While attending a picnic at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, Kiara had a conversation with a local Real Estate professional who recommended the Homes for Heroes® Program. “The Realtor explained that we would get a qualified professional agent to help us find a home, as well as receive extra benefits,” Kiara explained.

Homes for Heroes Affiliate

Chris Newton.

Chris Newton, a Realtor with O’Hara & Company Real Estate and proud Katy, Texas Homes for Heroes Affiliate, received a call from Kiara explaining the family’s situation.  “When I spoke with Kiara on the phone, I understood that she wanted to get started looking for a home as soon as the family arrived in town,” said Newton. “She told me that they would be living in a hotel until they found a house, and with a young child, that wasn’t an ideal situation.”

Like most families, the Gilberts wanted a great family-friendly area, first rate schools and a sense of community. Having access to major freeways was also important so that Tyler would have an easy commute downtown where he oversees recruiting for the United States Navy.

Why Homes for Heroes?

Homes for Heroes’ mission is to provide extraordinary savings to heroes who provide extraordinary services to our nation and communities every day.  Firefighters, law enforcement, military (active, reserve and veterans), healthcare professionals, Emergency Medical Service personnel and teachers all qualify for this amazing program that is not credit or income based.

Newton explained why he is so passionate about the program. “I wanted a way to consistently give back to our local community heroes, and the Homes for Heroes Program is a great fit.”

The program is straight forward and easy to understand for participants who are both looking to buy or sell a home. Benefits are calculated as a percentage of the sales price of the property purchased. For example, when a Heroes Program participant purchases a home for $280,000, he receives a Hero Rewards check after closing in the amount of $1,960 or seven percent.  There’s nothing for the program participant to do except enjoy their much-deserved reward.

Similar savings can be found when selling a home using the program. The rewards program is funded by Realtor contributions from transaction commissions. Homes for Heroes lender affiliates also provide savings and benefits to program participants to further maximize the program’s impact. “Not only are the financial benefits very exciting; there is one other important benefit,” said Newton. “There is an interview process when joining Homes for Heroes that includes ongoing training and annual meetings, and there is an addition annual fee that the affiliates pay to be part of the program.  All Homes for Heroes affiliates have been through a vetting process, and each affiliate has a large financial stake in the program’s success.

“This, along with the passion for taking care of our local heroes, ensures that they are getting a Real Estate partner that will truly advocate for there best interests.”

Homes for Heroes History

Homes for Heroes is the largest nationwide network of affiliate Real Estate specialists and local business affiliates committed to providing easy ways for the heroes of our nation to save both on a home and on every day home-related purchases. Shortly after 9/11, Homes for Heroes was established to give back to firefighters, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare workers, Emergency Medical Service personnel and teachers for all they do for our communities.  Hero Rewards is a way to say “thank you” to those who serve and sacrifice so much.

In 2002, Homes for Heroes was established in Minneapolis, Minnesota by current CEO Ruth Johnson and family members Kacy Mlenar, Helen Johnson and Mark Micek. was launched in 2004, and between 2005-2008, the company became a multi-state program with the creation of the Friends of Heroes Program. Homes for Heroes launched the program nationally in 2009 with over 100 affiliate Real Estate partners and also established the Homes for Heroes Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to further assist heroes in need.

Giving and Giving Big

In 2017, Homes for Heroes reached a major milestone. As of July 2017, over $25 Million has been given back to American heroes on their Real Estate transactions. The organization established a corporate giving platform as part of their Hero Outreach and partnered with the International Union of Police Associations and the State Firefighters and Fire Marshals Associations of Texas.

To expand the circle of giving, Homes for Heroes donates a portion of its earnings to the Homes for Heroes Foundation. Every time a program participant buys or sells a home using the Homes for Heroes Program, they are helping heroes in need of housing or emergency financial assistance. The foundation awards Hero Grants to local nonprofit charities serving heroes in need. To make the most meaningful impact on multiple communities, only non-profits nominated by Homes for Heroes affiliates or employees are considered for grant awards. Between 2009 and 2017, $429,088 in grants were awarded. In 2018 to date, $80,000 in grants have been awarded.

In honor of Military Appreciation Month and Armed Forces Day, Homes for Heroes grows its Circle of Giving through the Homes for Heroes Foundation with a $50,000 grant to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans’ non-profit organizations by presenting five checks for $10,000 each to organizations across the nation who serve homeless veterans. The following centers were recipients of the grants.

  • Center for Veterans Issues in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • St. Patrick Center in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Endeavors in Fort Worth, Texas
  • Tampa Crossroads in Tampa, Florida
  • HOPE Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia

To learn more about the Homes for Heroes Program, visit  For information on Homes for Heroes in Katy, visit

And welcome home Gilbert family!  We appreciate your service and are proud to have you as a new neighbor!