Keith Earnshaw, an adjunct professor at N.C. State University, works with many students in the military who are fighting in Afghanistan and taking his online college courses.
Sometimes, they send e-mail asking for assignment extensions because they were out in the field longer than expected.
"I'm amazed they e-mail me coming in from the field and jump right into their work," Earnshaw said.
With his students in mind, Earnshaw, 54, was inspired to create Coastal Giving, a charity that asks North Carolina owners to donate their beach houses for a week to either reunited military families, injured service members, or families with children who have life-threatening medical conditions.
Earnshaw, who has lived in Raleigh for 20 years, registered his charity with the N&O's Holiday Giving Guide, which includes nearly 130 charities in need of donations this Christmas. Find the guide at bit.ly/givguide.
"Last January, I was walking on east beach [Bald Head Island], and nobody was there," Earnshaw said. "I thought the homes could be populated, especially in the off-season, and I know the military base is so close to the beach. What a fit."
Earnshaw operates Earnshaw Environmental, a consulting firm, and also teaches online courses at N.C. Wesleyan College and University of California, Berkeley. He and his wife have owned a home on Bald Head for five years. In July, he put an article in the island's newsletter asking homeowners to donate a week in February or March, when homes typically aren't rented.
So far, five owners, including Earnshaw, have donated a total of eight weeks. (Earnshaw is giving three weeks at his house.)
Kathy Belden of Canton, Ohio, donated her Bald Head house for a week. She and her husband both served in the Navy.
"I have a real soft spot for military families," she said. "I just hope it helps somebody. We love our house, and we love sharing it with other people."
Earnshaw has a shoestring budget and has paid for everything, including legal fees, out of his own pocket. He is looking for more owners of beach houses in North Carolina to join him in opening up their homes to give military families a nice respite.
Another way to give
Don't have a beach house? No problem. Coastal Giving, which recently became an official nonprofit recognized by the IRS, is also looking for donations to help pay for cleaning services after the visits, as well as meals for the families and kayak adventures they can take.
Earnshaw is working with Fort Bragg's family services and the Wounded Warriors Program to find military families who could use the homes. He is also working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.
"Most kids want to go to Disney, but some parents want to stay closer to home" and to their doctors and hospitals, Earnshaw said.
So if you would be willing to give a week at your beach house or give a donation, call Keith Earnshaw at 919-818-1746 or send him e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.