On Saturday, February 2, Aid Our Veterans is holding a Bull Roast fundraiser at the American Legion Post 148 in Essex. Aid Our Veterans is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization working to help homeless and out of work veterans with programs and services such as housing and job training and placement.
According to Aid Our Veterans, after military service, too many veterans return to the civilian world only to find a lack of jobs in a changing world. Unfortunately, many veterans slip through the cracks and end up homeless or unemployed.
“Our goal is to keep the veterans from becoming homeless and getting the ones that are homeless off the streets. We operate solely on private donations, and we are nationwide. If they served, we help,” said Debra Smith, Director of Aid Our Veterans, located on Eastern Avenue near Eastpoint Mall. “This year the weather has really brought donations down, and we are struggling with so many requests for help. That’s why we need to do fundraisers like the Bull Roast.”
The Bull Roast will feature music, door prizes, games, 50/50s, silent auctions and wheels of chance. The menu includes pit beef, ham and turkey, sides, a variety of desserts, draft beer and soda. A cash bar will be available for mixed drinks.
Door prizes, baskets and raffles will include baskets of cheer; two $500 gift certificates for airline tickets; trips, Valentine baskets, massage certificates; gym memberships; movie tickets; Starbucks gift cards; Live Casino baskets; jewelry from Reeds and Smyth Jewelers; an electric guitar; Mission Escape room tickets for 10 and much more.
“The number of homeless veterans are staggering just this past weekend we helped feed and clothe over 750 veterans that are homeless or living in shelters at the Stand Down we go to each January at Winterhaven,” said Smith. “The goal is to get them off the streets, in the system, and provide them with any counseling they may need. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide a day that is 22 too many.”
At the Stand Down, the veterans received new clothes, hot meals, coats, blankets, showers, medical and dental care, hair cuts and more. “The difference when they leave is tear jerking,” said Smith.
“One of the main things we say is the words ‘homeless’ and ‘veterans’ should never be used in the same sentence,” she said. “This is our way of giving back to those who gave so much. They gave the ultimate sacrifice. This is a way to help vets who gave you your freedom.”
Aid Our Veterans was founded in 2008 by Thomas Conlan, a US Navy veteran, in response to the many needs he had witnessed among fellow military veterans. Conlan was concerned by the ever-growing population of homeless and jobless veterans, many of them suffering from war-related injuries and mental health issues. Having enjoyed a successful career in the construction field after his service, Conlan felt he needed to give back, so he started Aid Our Veterans. When Conlan passed away in 2013, Smith was named the director.
Some of the services Aid Our Veterans offers include:
- Supporting veteran shelters
- Working with VA hospitals to place homeless veterans in shelters and find emergency bedding
- Finding job training and work placement assistance
- Providing food, clothing, and furnishings on a case-by-case basis
- Providing emergency assistance with critical items such as rent, heating bills and medical costs
- Helping place donated vehicles with veterans in need of transportation for work
- Putting veterans to work doing community outreach and fundraising
- Helping coordinate counseling when needed
- Coordinating visits to VA hospitals and rehabilitation centers
Veterans can call the organization directly to ask for assistance, but many veterans are referred to them by other organizations such as the VA.
“If they are a vet and they served, we will help them. It doesn’t matter where they live,” said Smith. “Some organizations will only serve one branch of the military while Aid Our Veterans covers all branches.”
“Many of the veterans are homeless, and are looking to get into shelters. But some don’t want to get off the streets for whatever reason, so we try to find them a cheap motel, or they may want tents and sleeping bags,” she said.
Other veterans who are not homeless might be down on their luck because of medical bills. Some are working, but they can’t catch up with their bills after being out of work for a long period.
Smith says that 85 percent of Aid Our Veterans volunteers are veterans themselves. “A lot of those volunteers are vets who have been helped. They want to pay it forward,” she said. “Attending our Bull Roast is a great way for others to give back as well.”
Aid Our Veterans also needs donations to help homeless veterans. The following items can be dropped off at their office at 7820 Eastern Avenue: blankets, hats, gloves, tents, back packs, gym bags, lap blankets for veterans in hospitals, word search and crossword puzzle books, gift cards to grocery stores, and toiletries.
Aid Our Veterans Fundraiser Bull Roast
Saturday, February 2, 2019
6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
American Legion Post 148, 20 South Marlyn Ave., Essex, MD 21221
Tickets are $45.00 per person.
For tickets or more information, call (410) 391-8721 or go to http://aidourveterans.net.