Veteran continues drive towards independence

U.S. Army veteran Stephanie C. has a lengthy commute.

The 50-year-old rides the city bus system, and waiting for buses to make their connections creates a 5 hour trip to and from work each day.

On Monday morning, Jan. 28, after her overnight shift as a pharmacy technician, Stephanie headed to HVAF headquarters for a short meeting. Little did she know that the meeting was a cover for a larger surprise.

HVAF staff and TV news crews greeted Stephanie when she arrived at our building.

Soon, Stephanie’s eyes had misted because HVAF President & CEO Dr. Charles Haenlein announced that she was the recipient of a car as he handed her keys to a 1994 burgundy Ford Explorer.

On this rainy day, Stephanie’s joyful laughter of excitement and appreciation warmed our hearts.

“Receiving this car is better than amazing, it’s life-changing,” says Stephanie. “This will be a huge help in cutting down my travel time, and I will now be able to sleep more and be better rested for my shift work.”

A little more than a year ago Stephanie became homeless, the transition from military to civilian life was challenging. She didn’t have steady employment and was sleeping on a friend’s couch.

Stephanie learned about HVAF through a friend. And in February 2011, she entered HVAF’s transitional housing program, moving into the Moreau House.

Soon, she found full-time work at a downtown pharmaceutical company, but she was forced to rely on public transit without her own car, creating that daily 5 hour commute to travel just 13 miles round trip.

Stephanie’s long commute and her longer journey to return to complete independence became a popular topic of discussion for HVAF staff, and when Allan Ware, a 21-year retired Army veteran, came to us wanting to donate his used car to a veteran in need we looked no further than Stephanie.

“I ultimately felt HVAF was the right fit for this donation, and this is exactly what I wanted to do with the vehicle,” Allan says. “It is now in the hands a veteran who was in need of transportation.”

It’s a single gift of a car that has the power to drive forward Stephanie’s return to an independent and productive life.


Volunteer Spotlight: A Lesson In Giving

When Melissa Weathers woke up, it was cold and rainy. Not a good start to the day, she thought. Then her thoughts turned to the homeless veterans who are often faced with great challenges like finding food or a bed to sleep in.

Melissa became aware of the homeless veterans issue after she supported HVAF food and clothing drives as a member of the Franklin American Legion Post #205.

On this cold and rainy day, she decided it was time to volunteer on behalf of HVAF again, and she knew just the way to extend a helping hand - the coupon collection program sponsored by her American Legion Post’s Junior Auxiliary, a group of children ages three to 17 who have veterans in their families and to gather to learn about patriotism and serve their local veterans community.

Volunteer Cheyenne Warnack delivers gifts to HVAF veterans “What better way to give back than to have our youngest members who each have a veteran in their family take over the coupon program and collect essential hygiene items for HVAF,” says Melissa, who is the Chairwoman of the Junior Auxiliary at Post #205.

Beginning in September, members began collecting coupons from the Sunday newspapers. The coupons were separated by categories, such as frozen, cold and canned foods.

As the holidays approached, the program used its coupons to purchase gift bags of essential hygiene items for each veteran in HVAF’s housing program, 200 men and women.
"It was a wonderful experience giving back to our veterans, as they have selfishly helped provide our everyday freedoms. Putting a smile on their faces and the feeling of gratefulness was the greatest feeling,” says Melissa’s daughter, Cheyenne Warnack, a 17-year-old Junior Auxiliary member.

In total, Cheyenne’s group purchased dozens of soap bars, shaving cream containers, and shaving kits that the veterans could use day-to-day.

On December 20, Melissa led her daughter and the other Auxiliary members to stops at each of HVAF’s 13 housing properties to deliver donated items to the veterans in person.

The day was cold and rainy, but it was a good start to the day Melissa told an HVAF staff member.