Many of you have probably seen the Dégagé Ministries/Rob Bliss Creative Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation video featuring a homeless veteran’s dramatic makeover. The video, while touching, drew criticism from cynics quick to remind us that the plight of the homeless veteran is one that requires more than a makeover. So I contacted Bridgette Bassford, the Assistant Executive Director of Dégagé Ministries to see what this organization is really doing for people like Jim, the homeless veteran in the video. As it turns out, they’re doing a lot.
According to their 2012 Annual Report, Dégagé brings in over one million dollars a year and eighty-one percent of that goes toward programs including hygiene services (showers, laundry), transportation to job interviews and appointments, housing assistance, overnight accommodations and meals. Although the ministry assists the general homeless population in their area, Dégagé marks Veterans Day with an annual dinner honoring the veterans they serve. Assistant Director Bassford notes that, “Many of the veterans who attend comment that it is the first time (or the first time in a long time) someone has thanked them for their service.”
So that’s one organization that’s walking the walk, but what about the rest of us? How do we show our gratitude to our nation’s veterans?
Donate your air miles. The Fisher House Foundation uses donated frequent flyer miles to provide airline tickets to support wounded, injured, and ill military service members and their families who are undergoing treatment at a military or VA medical center.
Donate or volunteer for a veterans’ outreach organization. The USO, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Homes For Troops, Support Homeless Veterans, Habitat for Humanity and the Home Depot Foundation are just a few of the many programs in place to help our veterans! (For a complete list with links visit Michele’s blog.)
Write a letter. The Red Cross collects cards between October and early December and then distributes them at military installations, veterans’ hospitals, and other locations. So many of these men and women don’t have the support of family or friends to carry them through. Write a card or host a party to prepare cards of encouragement and thanks.
Attend community events. Most cities host Veterans Day events, from parades and festivals to 5K races and fundraisers. Find out what’s happening in your community and show your support!
Veterans Day is one of those holidays that has a tendency of taking on a sort of vague meaning for those not directly affiliated with the military. But before you let it pass without a second thought, consider these small acts to say thank you to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for so little.