The donor wanted the $5,000 year-end gift to be used, somehow, to help homeless veterans in Pickaway County. As Board Member Jerry Leist and Executive Director Barry Adams began to explore the idea they were surprised that as many as 50 or more homeless veterans filter through Pickaway County Community Action Agency (PICCA) every year. It seemed like the donor’s wishes could definitely be honored and discussions with PICCA and some of the veterans living in its emergency/temporary housing facility proved fruitful.
Becky Hammond, deputy director and emergency services director at PICCA, was quick to give credit to how the concept of a ‘welcome bag’ (in the form of a messenger bag) was conceived. “It was one of my guys,” she explained. “He had rolled up his DD214 form – a record of vital importance for veterans – and stuffed it down his shirt.” He wanted a better way to carry his important records and paperwork, she added.
A messenger-style bag that can be slung over the shoulder became a ‘Welcome Bag’ and the PICCA staff explored what might be practical as well as useful for vets arriving at its doors. By the first week in May the bags were already being distributed to more than a dozen veterans living in its emergency/temporary housing facility.
The bags can easily be carried while walking, bicycling, or carrying something. Inside the bag veterans find a flashlight, hand sanitizer, an ink pen, and a PICCA directory of services. There’s also a durable portfolio for important papers to hold – files such as birth certificates, medication lists, emergency contact numbers, employment information, and military service records. A toiletries kit is also included inside the bag and comes stocked with shampoo, sunscreen, deodorant and other essentials.
Hammond estimated that there are enough veteran welcome bags purchased with the grant to last throughout 2016 and most, if not all, of 2017.
PCCF Chair Dan Litzinger was very pleased that the funds were directed toward helping homeless veterans in Pickaway County. “It is an important issue that is too often overlooked in many communities today. Though there are outstanding supportive groups like PICCA and the Pickaway County Veterans Service Commission, among others, former servicemen and women often aren’t always fully aware of where they can to turn when they are in need of advice or even food and shelter. From the Foundation’s standpoint it is gratifying to know that we are able to help these veterans because a generous donor wanted us to find a way to “make a difference.”
Area residents who are interested in assisting homeless veterans can make donations directly to PICCA or PCCF. “The generosity shown by our donors provided us an added sense of purpose but, perhaps more importantly, it made us reflect that issues, such as homeless veterans, are important barometers of a community’s awareness and compassion,” added Litzinger.