Indianapolis military families enlist the List when loved ones serve

Indianapolis military families enlist the List when loved ones serve

Kim Shipley of Fishers says she’s used several day cares for her dog during her husband’s active duty as a Marine Corps captain, but she calls highly rated Downtown Doggie on Indianapolis’ Near Northside the best that’s ever cared for her pet pooch. No matter what service she needs to tend to home-related matters, she credits Angie’s List with helping her find good contractors.

“Angie’s List is great for military members, especially for the obvious fact that when we move to a new town every couple of years, usually not knowing a soul, it’s a great starting place for all kinds of service,” she says.

She says she hired a few contractors after searching online or from the Yellow Pages, and says she received disappointing service as a result. “I had a neighbor who was on Angie’s List, and they informed us those contractors had received prior poor reviews on Angie’s List,” Shipley says, adding that she joined the List shortly after. “I regretted we hadn’t used it.”

Military families face a variety of challenges while their loved ones serve their country from afar, or just while dealing with the day-to-day reality of life in the service. Hiring reliable service providers can be difficult, particularly if the deployed family member is normally the one who handles such matters.

Who do I hire?

Kathleen Moakler, government relations director for the National Military Family Association, says many military spouses experience similar situations.

“When the service member is deployed, the stay-at-home spouse suddenly finds themselves handling a lot of jobs that might have been divided up before,” she says. “And military families are a mobile population. They don’t have the handyman service that they and their friends and their families have always used. So Angie’s List gives them a way to vet those folks and see what other people have said about them.”

Greenwood member LynnAnn Gisbrecht, whose husband has served in the Army for 25 years, says she appreciated finding a good primary care physician when her family moved to Greenwood, and highly rated Dr. Shelley Stiner on Indianapolis’ Southside also accepts her insurance.

“As a mother of two and a military wife, we move more than I would like, and I’m always changing doctors,” Gisbrecht says. “I often find I can’t find a doctor who can treat the entire family, because a lot of doctors don’t accept TRICARE military insurance. But she does, and I’ve found her to be remarkable.”

Kathy Broniarczyk, director of outreach at the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University, encourages military families to plan ahead for deployments. “Hopefully, the family is prepared enough that you can identify places to go before the service member deploys,” she says. “If you have an emergency problem, such as your water or heat going out soon after moving into a new place, sometimes you have to just get it done without the luxury of trying people out.”

Moakler says many support networks exist for military families, though not everyone knows to reach out to them, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion. She says the NMFA provides resources such as the MyMilitaryLife app to help families navigate military life.

Broniarczyk tells military families to seek out resources available to them at their installations and via the military’s Family Assistance Centers. She also notes that Angie’s List can be a valuable resource. “You end up moving so many times and trying to find places, and having these kinds of reviews give some information so people can at least make a more educated decision.”

Can I get military discounts?

About 70 Indianapolis-area companies advertise some sort of military discount on their Angie’s List profiles.

Julian Hodges, owner of highly rated 2Marines Lawn & Landscape in Fishers, offers a 10 percent discount to active-duty service members and veterans. Hodges, a Marine combat veteran himself, says the majority of his business comes from families with military connections. “We’re like blood brothers because of our background,” he says. “I have Marines who served in Vietnam who call me and act like we just got home from Iraq together.”

Kimberly Clark, a highly rated Fishers-based Realtor, received military residential specialist training from RE/MAX and says military family relocations make up between 6 and 10 percent of her business. “The certification means we’ve been trained on what exactly a VA loan entitles them to, what they need to be eligible, and the different properties available to them,” she says. “So we’re a little bit more in tune with military families and their relocation.” For veterans or service members who list their home with her, Clark says she offers a $100 gift certificate to access services for a variety of companies.

She says she frequently directs her clients to Angie’s List to find contractors in their new homes. “The challenge frequently is, they’re coming to a town they’ve never been to,” she says. “A lot goes into finding the right neighborhood, schools and being near their station.”

Moving often poses one of the bigger challenges for military families. Bethany Ott of Indianapolis says she’s moved at least 15 times in the course of her husband Jonathan’s 27-year Army career, and says highly rated College Hunks Hauling Junk/College Hunks Moving, based on Indianapolis’ Northside, stood above them all. “We’ve had the worst moves, and we’ve had the best. Jeff Johnson, the owner, is the best,” she says. “We’re moving to a new home in a few months, and we’ll use him again then.”

Member James Matherlee of New Palestine, a veteran of both the Army and Marines, says Moving Dawgs, a Northside Indianapolis company, lived up to his expectations when they moved him into a new home. “Being a veteran myself, I will always go with a vet-owned company,” he says, adding that Moving Dawgs also gave him a 10 percent discount. “They tend to have great leadership and a great work ethic, so it was a no-brainer for me.”

Who can I trust?

Broniarczyk, who moved 14 times herself in the course of her now-retired husband’s Army and National Guard career, says moving to a new place presents its own challenge, but the frequency by which military families do it presents a whole new set of issues.

“When you move into a new community, especially one where there aren’t any military families, you have a real challenge in terms of finding providers you can trust,” she says. “Everything from who’s going to cut my hair to finding a good doctor to the best place to get the oil changed in my car.”

She says the concerns multiply when a loved one serves overseas.

“When you’re deployed, you worry about the unscrupulous people who’ll tell your spouse, ‘Oh, you have to replace your whole heater,’ when you only need to replace one part. They’re taking advantage of the fact that the one who usually talks to the service providers isn’t there,” she says. “You don’t have the luxury of saying ‘Let me call my husband and see what he thinks’ when they’re overseas.”

Hodges says he thinks contractors should work to earn the trust of both the service member and their spouse.

“I tell everyone, if you’re the wife of a Marine, soldier, sailor or airman, you’ve served your time, too,” Hodges says. “You’re at home handling things while your husband is off in the middle of nowhere and half the time can’t even tell you where he’s at. It’s one of the biggest challenges for a deployed service member. I get calls from guys who say ‘I don’t want some shady contractor coming and ripping off my wife or invoicing me for cutting my lawn four times when they do it only once.’”

Highly rated 3 Kings Plumbing, based on the Southside, has offered a 10 percent discount to active-duty service members and their families for several years. President Summer Tielking says that although the company doesn’t get many calls to use it, she considers it an honor. “They’re putting their lives on the line so that we can live free in this country,” she says. “The very least that we can do is offer them a discount for their services.”


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Black Hawk pilot James Hagerty and his wife, Samantha, of Port Wentworth, Ga., say Angie's List is invaluable in finding reputable contractors. (Photo by John Carrington)

Hiring a reliable service provider can be a difficult matter when a loved one serves overseas, but Angie's List can help on the homefront.

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