A meal makes a difference

For a third year, the Ernie Pyle VFW Post 1120 in Indianapolis served a big Thanksgiving meal for veterans at HVAF.

“We are honored to continue this tradition during the holidays,” says Cloyce Cornett, Post Commander.

"It makes me feel glad to see the VFW has embraced us and appreciates our service," says Kenny P., an HVAF veteran. He has been out of work and struggling with homelessness for 4 years.

Today he is working on attaining his educational goals while being housed at HVAF.
"I think this is awesome, that they hosted this luncheon for us," says Curtis Williamson, a social worker with the HVAF REST program.

"It's inspiring to feel like we have the support of the community,” Curtis says. “Whether they are forgotten or not, our HVAF vets often do feel forgotten, and it’s small gestures like these that I hope make some kind of impact if not just for the day, maybe for a year, or a lifetime.”

 “This is our way of saying thanks to all the veterans who served our country,” adds Cloyce.

A homeless vet dishes up warm meals

Reggie O., 57, entered the Marines with a passion for cooking and a long resume working at restaurants. When he finished his military service in 1975, Reggie came home, married in Nashville, Tennessee, had one child, bought a house and, and as he says, started to live happily ever after.

But after divorce, his battle to keep work in the construction industry lasted for two decades. Eventually, Reggie became homeless and joined the ranks of thousands of homeless veterans around the country. With no money coming in, Reggie didn’t know where his next meal would come from.

He came to HVAF in 2012 where he joined other veterans in transition.
"We all have so much in common and so much fellowship just having served," he said. "Now I'm turning around and serving other veterans by serving them meals at Warman Apartments where I live. It's an awfully good feeling."

Why vets struggle

Although homelessness is a concern for the general population, veterans face unique struggles, says Charles Haenlein, a Vietnam veteran and President & CEO of HVAF.

"These men and women went away to combat and came home a different person," says Haenlein. “It’s a hard process for a lot of people."

Abby Hardin, Reggie’s Case Manager, knows the struggles veterans face.

“The stigma of homelessness can also create a cycle that is difficult to break,” says Abby. "There are a lot of intelligent, well-mannered people that have just become displaced. Most anyone could be one paycheck away from being homeless."

Nearly a year after becoming homeless, Reggie says he’s ready to start a new life with a positive attitude and hopes to spend more time in the kitchen dishing up warm meals. He recently landed a job at IU Hospital working as a Cook.
“I love preparing and serving warm meals because it puts a smile on people’s faces,” says Reggie. “I’m getting a second chance to do a lot. If nothing else, the struggles of homelessness strengthened me."

Reggie also participates in Back on My Feet, an HVAF partner and national running program that promotes self-sufficiency through running.

HVAF Employee Spotlight

Abby Hardin escorted soldiers through the deserts of the Middle East. In war zones, she was entrusted with guarding ammunition and weapons.

But when the 30-year-old Navy veteran returned from duty, she applied for 53 jobs and had little luck.

"I applied for waitress jobs, McDonald's, gas stations," the Indianapolis native says. "I went online and applied for entry-level positions with companies. It was anything I could get my hands on, but I was either overqualified or under qualified.”

Abby would ultimately return to school and earn her BSW in Social Work at Indiana University East. In February 2012, she was hired at HVAF as a Social Worker.

Here’s more about Abby in her own words.

Abby, what do you enjoy most about working at HVAF?

I love being able to help the guys and being able to connect them with the resources they need to start a new beginning, and I like being able to put a smile on their face when they are looking for a job.

What did she learn from serving in the military?

I learned a lot about punctuality and recognizing how to be assertive, stand up for myself. It made me stronger and taught me life lessons.

How do you enjoy spending your time?

I enjoy playing with my 9 year old son, Joseph. He keeps me youthful.

College Park to serve meals to homeless vets

When David W., 67, an Army veteran, returned from military service he felt relieved. But, as he tried to move forward after serving in the Army, difficulties confronted him.

“My life was chaotic before coming to HVAF,” David says. “I was renting an apartment downtown and shuffled through roommates and was dealing with alcohol abuse, which left me homeless several times.”

“My roommates at the time didn’t want to come along with my sobriety and I was disconnected with my family and friends,” David explains. “But I found my way, and HVAF is supporting me with the help of compassion from College Park.”

David was one of 47 HVAF veterans who enjoyed a holiday dinner provided by the College Park Church Military Ministry, a group committed to serving veterans. The Ministry is in its third year providing and serving monthly meals at HVAF’s Warman property.

“We first learned of HVAF through Arne Pederson who serves on the Board of Directors, and we started to help because many of us, as veterans ourselves, understand the struggles and how difficult it can be,” says Jan Gaidis, who serves as Meal Coordinator.

“We saw a need to establish a military ministry at our church as a way to encourage and support these men and women as they transition home,” says Gaidis.

Now, month after month, HVAF vets like David can continue their return to self-sufficiency over hot meals, like ham and scalloped potatoes, while praying and talking with College Park Church volunteers.