As a daughter, granddaughter and sister of veterans, Charlie Hyatt has always had a soft spot for those who served.
So when Hyatt learned that while vets could secure housing through government programs they often had nothing to fill those homes, she decided to take action.
Since 2011 her Help for Heroes charity has provided everything from furniture to cookware to nearly 500 once-homeless veterans in Ohio.
“I just, I feel that someone who serves their country should have at least what I have, if not better,” Hyatt tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
“These are people who signed up and said, ‘I will take a bullet for my fellow countrymen.’ Maybe they didn’t see combat, but even the ones who didn’t could have been called into it at any time. This is the least I can do to say, ‘Thank you.’ ”
Six — sometimes seven — days a week, the 58-year-old College Station, Ohio, resident criss-crosses the northern part of the state in her beat-up 26-year-old Chevy box truck, picking up donated items that she delivers to veterans.
“My joy,” says Hyatt, “comes when I open the back of my truck in front of the home of a vet who has nothing and tell him, ‘This is all yours.’ “
Those she helps become family to her. “On Mother’s Day my phone blows up,” she says. “They all call to say, ‘Thank you. Happy Mother’s Day.’ They’ve become my boys. One of the veterans I helped six years ago texts me every single day, saying, ‘Good morning, Charlie. God bless you.’ “
Her biggest challenge, she admits, is finding ways to fund the organization, which she needs to pay for upkeep and insurance on her truck, and for storage units for donated items.
“I can pick up couches until I’m blue in the face,” Hyatt says. “But if there’s no fuel in the truck to deliver the couches, then it doesn’t really do me any good.”
To help Hyatt in her efforts to help veterans, you can donate to Help for Heroes at the GoFundMe campaign started on the group’s behalf.
For more on Charlie Hyatt and other inspiring stories about the veteran community, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.