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‘Treasured items’ for vets in need

‘Treasured items’ for vets in need
Staff members from the local Home Depot meet with veterans who received Veterans Personal Essentials Kits as part of the The American Legion's 96th National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug 26.

Edward Jones spent eight months jobless and living on the streets of Charlotte in 2013 and 2014. Then he found Community Link, a non-profit organization that has been assisting homeless veterans throughout North Carolina since 1929.

“Without them, I would probably still be homeless,” said Jones, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1978 to 1983. “It definitely helped me.” Community Link helped Jones get a job, pay for transportation and, later, find a two-bedroom house to rent. “I’m not one to give up,” Jones said. “We do what we have to do.”

Jones was one of about a half-dozen veterans at the Charlotte office of Community Link on Tuesday morning to receive personal care kits filled with toiletries and other items. More than 600 kits were filled by members of The American Legion Monday during the organization’s 96th National Convention. Grant money from The Home Depot Foundation paid for the items, working with Good360, a nationwide non-profit organization that builds corporate relationships in order to raise funds and deliver goods to people in need. The American Legion Veterans Employment and Education Division helped connect the dots among the groups so the “Veterans Personal Essential Kits” can be distributed to Community Link veterans who are homeless or who have recently gotten homes but still need assistance.

“The American Legion came through,” said Jason Boon, director of logistics for Good360, formerly known as Gifts in Kind International. “It was a huge success.”

Heather Pritchard, a senior manager for The Home Depot Foundation, said she was impressed by the enthusiasm of volunteers who filled the kits. “It’s such a good fit,” she said. “Veterans helping veterans.”

“These are treasured items,” said Randall Hitt, chief advancement officer for Community Link, which has helped more than 220 veterans since October 2013 in a 10-county area of North Carolina. “Some of the homeless veterans we serve come to us with nothing.”

Even after they get homes, they often lack essential supplies, such as the personal care products in the kits. “It’s kind of like a welcome basket for them,” Hitt said.

Hitt said Community Link works closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, homeless shelters and with veterans service organizations to identify people in need. “It’s exciting because we are helping folks, but it’s also kind of sad that there is so much need,” Hitt said.

The Home Depot Foundation has worked with numerous American Legion posts across the country in recent years, providing grants for veterans facilities. Pritchard said The Home Depot Foundation has invested more than $81 million to help veterans with housing needs. Gaven Gregory, executive director of The Home Depot Foundation, is scheduled to speak before the convention Thursday to discuss new opportunities with The American Legion.

Learn more about Community Link at www.communitylink-nc.org on the web. Visit www.homedepotfoundation.org to learn more about The Home Depot Foundation. Information about Good360, which has been serving people in need for more than 30 years, can be found by visiting www.good360.org online.

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