The Second Annual Home of the Brave Basket Stuffing was held on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at Arena’s in Milford. The event, created by Patti Persia and her husband, Councilman Jamie Burk, stuffed baskets for the 19 veterans living at the two Home of the Brave shelters in Milford.
“Our goal is to provide them not only with the things they need, but also bring holiday cheer to those who have served our country,” Ms. Persia said. “We had kids make cards at the event for the veterans. We also had girl scout troops participating. The community was awesome and so generous. This is only the second year, but I can see this event happening for a long time.”
Community members donated a total of 860 packages of toiletries and other supplies as well as $1,093 in bus passes, gift certificates and cash. Councilman Burk said he was amazed at the outpouring of assistance from the community. Almost everyone at the event said that they learned of the basket stuffing as a friend of Ms. Persia or Councilman Burk or through social media.
Ms. Persia said that she and her husband decided last year that they wanted to give back to the community in an effort to demonstrate to their children what the holidays are really about. Councilman Burk is a member of the Knights of Columbus with a veteran who mentioned the two shelters to him. When he told Ms. Persia about the shelters, the couple decided to find a way to help.
Ms. Persia said that about 20 people participated in the first event, which was held at the couple’s home, in 2014. She said that the baskets were delivered to each home after they were filled. Denise Dudley, Care Manager at the Home of the Brave, said that these baskets are critical for some of the vets who sometimes arrive at the shelter with nothing but a backpack holding all their belongings. Ramsey Schrader, owner of Arena’s, donated the space for the basket stuffing as well as $285 in gift cards and dinner for the Home of the Brave veterans who were at the event.
“Many of these veterans have been homeless for a while,” Ms. Dudley said. “They have not had access to personal hygiene at all, let alone been able to purchase those items. Without these donations, the veterans would have to purchase their own personal hygiene products and many of them simply can’t afford it.” Ms. Dudley said that these types of items are needed at the shelters throughout the year, not just at Christmas time but that there are some veterans’ organizations and other civic groups who donate to them other times.
Ms. Dudley said that all donations are welcome at the Home of the Brave as they work to transition veterans into their own housing. To do this, they often need things like clothing, appliances and other household items in order to get a veteran set up in their own household. They are also requesting trees that will be planted at the Sharp Road shelter in order to provide shade and a wind break around the farmhouse.
The mission of the Home of the Brave is to reduce homelessness among military veterans. The organization provides transitional housing as well as food and security. Veterans who are housed at the shelters are provided with employment, counseling services, access to healthcare and transportation. Once it is determined they are able, Home of the Brave works with the veteran to find them affordable permanent housing which leads to personal independence. Veterans can stay at the shelters for up to two years, Ms. Dudley explained. There are two shelters in Milford currently, one on Causey Avenue that houses women and children, although there are no children housed there currently, and the Sharp’s Road shelter that houses men. The organization recently broke ground to build a women’s shelter on the same property as the men’s shelter in order to provide better service to both locations.
“This began in our dining room,” Councilman Burk said. “We wanted to ramp it up this year, but did not expect this much turn out, but this is what we do in Milford.”