Michael Hyacinthe has a heart for veterans, especially our nation’s wounded warriors. A former Nave SeaBee himself, Hyacinthe knows what it’s like to come home after serving his country.
That heart for veterans and his Christian faith have guided him into two roles that have veterans at the center. First is the non-profit Fashion Has Heart, which utilizes the power of creativity to help wounded veterans rehabilitate and helps them reintegrate into the broader society.
“We give them an outlet to express themselves,” said Hyacinthe, who lives with his family in Grand Rapids Township. “Veterans tend to be mute about who they are and what they did. Having a creative outlet makes them comfortable and begin to express themselves.”
Fashion Has Heart has paired wounded veterans with boot designers from Rockford-based Wolverine World Wide and t-shirt designers from around the country to create both boots and t-shirts that reflect their thoughts and heart. The shirts and boots have been on display at ArtPrize for the last two years.
This year saw five more veterans participating in the program—two from the Grand Rapids area and three from out of state. Wolverine World Wide designers and footwear designers from Kendall College of Art and Design participated with the veterans, as did t-shirt designers both local and national.
Boots and shirts will again be displayed at ArtPrize 2014. “We’ll be in the Veterans Memorial Park—the small building and outside—and all five vets will be there,” Hyacinthe said.
Hyacinthe and Fashion Has Heart were also accepted into the Macy’s Workshop. About 1,000 people or groups applied, with the top 50 invited to Macy’s headquarters in New York City to pitch their brands for possible sale in Macy’s stores. The top eight were selected for consideration, with Fashion Has Heart among those eight.
Hyacinthe spent a week in May in New York City at the Macy’s offices in Herald Square, a familiar place to him because he was raised in the Bronx. “We went downtown to the Thanksgiving Day parade and to shop at Macy’s when I was a kid,” he said. “I was at the Macy’s offices from 8 am to 5 pm, then took the train home to the Bronx to stay with my family when I was there.”
Macy’s will make a decision later this year or in early 2015 about which of the eight clothing lines will become available in stores.
The second role Hyacinthe plays to help veterans is with the local Habitat for Humanity. They tapped his expertise to start a program called Veterans Build, which helps provide home ownership to local veterans.
“I help recruit vets that fit the criterion Habitat is looking for, and tell the Habitat story in the veteran community,” he said. “Habitat is focused on vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who are looking for home ownership. This is an initiative that gets vets and civilians working side by side on veteran-related projects such as home repair, building homes, and mentoring.”
The Veterans Build program started in Fall 2013 and has built five homes so far in Kent County. They are currently working on another.
Hyacinthe and family—wife Sarah, children Mia, Lucas and Blake—attend Madison Square CRC North, which meets at Kent Hills Elementary School. Hyacinthe also has a daughter, Nia, living in New York City.
“As a Christian we’re asked to act through community service,” said Hyacinthe. “My military career strengthened that ability to give back to people because we do work in the military never expecting to get anything back. My faith confirms that. It seems logical to move from being a veteran and person of faith into this sort of service.”
Visit these websites to learn more about Fashion Has Heart and Habitat for Humanity:
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