By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
For the second year, the Little Falls Rotary Club is collecting items to be dispersed to homeless and near-homeless veterans around Minnesota. The Club is asking for the community’s help.
The Minnesota Action Council for Veterans (MACV) sponsors StandDowns across the state to help veterans. The events are held in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, Mankato, Duluth, International Falls, Grand Rapids, Bemidji, Virginia, Marshall and Detroit Lakes. In 2013, those areas helped 2,484 veterans.
At these StandDowns, hundreds of homeless veterans are provided with necessities which include food, clothing, medical, legal and mental health assistance. They also get job counseling and referrals. But most importantly, they get companionship and camaraderie.
Veterans are able to get a hair cut, assistance with their taxes, glasses, a hot meal, help with housing, connect with chemical dependency services and get clothing and hygiene kits.
This is a hand up, not a handout and is a time when the community is able to connect with the homeless veterans population and address the crisis that affects much of Minnesota.
In 2013, MACV held the annual Twin Cities event at Fort Snelling and the two-day event drew nearly 900 veterans looking for services from about 65 agencies.
Little Falls Rotary members Jeanne and Phil Smith, along with their son Chad, have worked with MACV for several years. They have actively collected more than 22,000 hygiene products and other items that have been distributed to veterans in need.
Morrison County alone donated about 5,000 items last year to the MACV StandDowns.
“Now that we live in Little Falls and are members of the Rotary Club, we have started this project with the club’s help to get the community involved,” said Phil. “Our fellow Rotarians have embraced the project and are excited to be part of this worthwhile cause.”
“Part of this is it’s a human-to-human project. The veterans know they have not been forgotten after what they have gone through,” said Jeanne. “It’s a travesty they are living on the streets and under bridges, being hungry.”
The Rotary Club has placed collection boxes at MidMinnesota Federal Credit Union, US Bank, the Little Falls American Legion and Coborn’s Superstore. They will be in those locations until July 15.
What is needed for the StandDowns are gently used or new backpacks, travel-size lotions, shampoos and soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, dental floss, white athletic sox and women’s personal hygiene products.
“Last year we saw a 12 percent increase in female participation in the state’s StandDowns,” said Jeanne. “Many of these women have children. This year we would also like to collect portable snacks for those children, preferably fruit snacks. We are also looking for cheese and crackers, or other protein or healthy breakfast bars.
Financial donations are also welcome. The checks should be made out to the Little Falls Rotary Club and may be sent to P.O. Box 414, Little Falls, MN 56345.“