Happy Thanksgiving, Veterans! How One Charity Is Giving Back

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Did you know that at least one out of 10 truck drivers is a veteran?

The statistic initially surprised us, too, but the more we thought about it, the more sense it made. Those with a military background often possess exactly the sort of qualities you’d look for in a driver: they’re often used to being away from home, for example, and they may already have experience with heavy machinery.

But you don’t just go from the Armed Forces to the cab of an 18-wheeler, or back into civilian life in general.

Veterans have given much to serve our country, but many of them leave the service after suffering disabling injuries or PTSD. Some simply don’t have the sort of skills that easily transfer to life outside the armed forces. All of these factors can make it extremely difficult to find and hold down a new job.

Without income, the prospect of keeping a roof overhead becomes markedly more difficult. At last estimate, one in four homeless Americans is a veteran.

You’ve all heard about our Fullbay Cares initiative, and how we aim to help those affiliated with the heavy-duty industry. We discovered Veterans Inc., a 501(c)3, through their support for veterans who want to obtain their CDLs or become technicians. We quickly realized there was a lot more to this charity, though, and wanted to feature the good work they do.

ABOUT VETERANS INC.

Veterans Inc. had its inception in a Tom Brokaw broadcast some three decades ago. Vincent J. Perrone, Lt. Colonel in the USAF (Retired), learned with the rest of the country that over 450,000 American veterans were homeless. The next day at work, Lt. Colonel Perrone recalls, “We were flabbergasted …

“We realized that when we all took the oath that some of us knew we may not come back, some of us knew that we may come back wounded; not one of us ever thought we would come back and be homeless.”

-Lt. Colonel Perrone

The deeply troubled Lt. Colonel made a promise to himself: If he got back home to Worcester, Massachusetts, and learned that the city had homeless veterans, he would get involved.

A year later, he did just that, joining an initiative in Worcester to open a shelter for homeless veterans. “It was a 60-day emergency shelter,” he recalled, and it mostly helped Vietnam veterans at the time. He eventually became the president of the board and shifted their mission slightly, opening the shelter’s doors to all veterans and removing time limits from the services offered.

Veterans Inc. became a 501(c)3 in 1990. Since then, the charity has come to the aid of over 85,000 veterans who needed help. “They were there when we needed them,” its motto states; “we must be there now that they need us.”

THEIR SERVICES

Over the years, Veterans Inc. has worked hard to keep veterans and their families sheltered and warm. It now operates offices in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, as well as Montana and North Dakota. Their dedication pays off; 85% of the veterans they help are able to transition out of homelessness. That’s one of the highest rates in the nation!

Reducing homelessness in veterans is not just about giving them a roof over their heads (although Veterans Inc. does indeed do that with its housing program). Reducing and eventually preventing homelessness means giving people the tools they need to succeed in life outside the military. Job skills and mental health services top the list, but Veterans Inc. offers a broad variety of other services to help bring our servicemen and women in from the cold.

There’s a lot that goes into helping someone stay off the street. From health and wellness services – including assistance in quitting smoking and support groups – to its first-in-the-nation program serving female veterans and their children, Veterans Inc. strives to provide the kind of services that help veterans reach the lives they want and deserve.

One of the charity’s most beloved initiatives, however, kicks off as fall gives way to winter.

HOLIDAY HARVEST

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. That’s a difficult time for many military families, who may be grappling with financial difficulties that prevent them from laying out the feast so many of us take for granted. That’s where Holiday Harvest comes in.

Two decades ago, Holiday Harvest was conceived as a way to “jump-start the holiday season” for the veterans and their families who may be facing homelessness. That traditional meal with all the trimmings isn’t cheap. During the holidays, it may come down to choosing which bill to pay and which to put off. New England winters are notoriously hard; more money has to go toward keeping homes warm and cars running. Every cent a veteran or their family can put towards rent or electricity is something taken away from their Thanksgiving dinner, or from presents under the Christmas tree.

That kind of dread can steal all the joy from the holidays.

Veterans Inc wants families to enjoy going into the holiday season – to embrace it for what it is, rather than lamenting not being able to afford it.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Veterans Inc. passes out turkeys and Thanksgiving-themed food boxes (think potatoes, yams, and cranberry sauce) to some 500 families. This rapidly adds up; in any given year, they serve between 2,500-3,000 people in one day. Veterans and their families can register for the food boxes here or call (800) 482-2565 to get the ball rolling without internet. On the day of the Harvest, they can pick up their meals, farmers market-style (with safety measures taken for COVID-19) at the Veterans Inc. headquarters at 69 Grove Street.

The Veterans Inc. Holiday Harvest is set up like a farmers market. This year, they will be taking steps to prohibit COVID-19 exposure.

Holiday Harvest is part of the Veterans Inc. Food Pantry program. It has over a thousand military veterans registered with it, and combined with their families, the pantry feeds over 10,000 people per year.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The wonderful services Veterans Inc. provides to our nation’s veterans are funded entirely through donations – and like many of us, they felt the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic, and its effect on the economy, has led to fewer contributions throughout 2020.

But the need for assistance doesn’t stop just because the contributions have dropped. If anything, some veterans need even more help due to the pandemic; they may have lost their jobs, and along with it their housing.

That’s where you can help.

Like we said, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. There are strong ties between the trucking industry and veterans. Here at Fullbay, we want to celebrate those ties, and give to those who have given so much to us. Veterans Inc.’s Holiday Harvest will be held on Tuesday, November 24th, and we’ll be making a donation to them before the end of the month. There is also plenty of time for you to donate to their efforts, too, and help ensure veterans and their families have a happy Thanksgiving.

Suz Baldwin

About Suz Baldwin

Suz Baldwin got her start in the automotive industry, writing and editing for several motorcycle and classic car magazines straight out of college. In the years that followed, she’s written all sorts of copy for brands big and small while consuming enough coffee to paralyze a dinosaur.

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