Before opening Home Helpers Home Care, Leo Walker had always been helping people with mental illnesses.

Before coming to Pearland in 2014, he founded a nonprofit in New Jersey, Hike for Mental Health, that aimed to bring awareness to the stigma around mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that affect many veterans. The nonprofit also raised funding through wilderness hikes for brain and behavior research.

When Walker got to Pearland, organizing wilderness hikes became more difficult, he said, but he still wanted to make a difference in his community.

Walker approached then-Pearland Mayor Tom Reid in 2014 about organizing a walk to honor and raise support for veterans in the city, Walker said. Reid was on board, and the first Pearland Veterans Day Walk was held.

“The response from the city, from the business community, just from everyone ... [was] really great, so we continued to do that year after year after year,” Walker said.

In 2018, Walker bought Home Helpers Home Care of Southeast Houston, which serves the Pearland area and focuses on helping older people, from simple tasks such as housekeeping to 24-hour care that involves providing meals, bathing and other assistance.

Soon after becoming involved with the local senior care, Walker saw the connection between his business and the veteran community. About 70% of Home Helpers’ clients are either veterans themselves or surviving spouses of veterans, Walker said.

“I think I knew pretty much from the beginning of when I was first contemplating getting involved with Home Helpers that there was going to be a connection there,” Walker said. “It wasn’t really a surprise so much that a lot of the clients are veterans or that they’re surviving spouses of veterans, but it did seem like a very natural connection because of that.”

It did not take long for Walker’s business to become actively involved with the Pearland Veterans Day Walk.

In November 2018, Home Helpers became the titled sponsor of the event, underwriting all costs to put on the walk. All the proceeds went directly to organizations that help veterans, such as Camp Hope, Pearland VFW Post 7109 and Community Assistance Providers of Greater Pearland.

“I think helping seniors at this stage of their life in general is pretty amazing to be able to do because of all the stories and all of the life experience they have,” Walker said. “When you’re talking to a veteran, that gets magnified because of what they have been through and the service they’ve been through.”

After holding a virtual walk in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Pearland Veterans Day Walk will return Nov. 13 as an in-person, outdoor event.

Home Helpers has helped bring Walker a sense of satisfaction knowing he is improving the lives of not only the elderly, but also veterans—something he did not get during his 30 years in the corporate world, Walker said.

“Our whole purpose is to make lives easier for those who are aging and for the families of those who are aging,” he said. “They’ve all lived amazing lives, and things are getting harder for them now.”