150 winter kits will aid homeless veterans in Indiana
Department of Indiana Commander Allen Connelly and District 11 Executive Vice Commander Ben Olsen help unload boxes filled with winter gear to HVAF of Indiana, on Thursday, December 3, 2020. Photo by Ben Mikesell/The American Legion

150 winter kits will aid homeless veterans in Indiana

The Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) of Indiana received a much-needed donation from The American Legion on Dec. 3.

The American Legion Department of Indiana and Indianapolis Post 522 presented an American Legion Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) grant worth more than $17,000 in winter gear and toiletries to help local homeless veterans during the cold months ahead.

“Thank you. What you do is going to matter to 150-plus veterans,” said Brian Copes, president and CEO of HVAF during the OCW presentation. “We get a lot of attention and a lot of energy, and a lot of generosity leading up to Christmas. And then it disappears. So January, February start getting to be really lean months. I think you have us set for the rest of the winter.

"It’s going to be put to good use. We pledge to be good stewards with whatever comes our way.”

HVAF is located a few blocks from The American Legion National Headquarters in downtown Indianapolis. Staff members from the Membership and Internal Affairs Division helped Department of Indiana Commander Allen Connelly and District 11 Executive Vice Commander Ben Olsen unload a delivery truck filled with boxes that contained various sizes of brand new items:

- Winter coats

- Hats, gloves and scarfs

- T-shirts

- Underwear

- Socks

- Toiletry kits

- OCW bags to carry the items in

“This is a very, very thoughtful and targeted donation that’s going to meet a very specific need right now as the weather is changing for the veterans in the community,” Copes said. “As I often say, it’s unfortunate that that need exists, but it’s a privilege and a blessing to help meet that need.”

Connelly, who was amazed at the amount of winter gear that The American Legion OCW grant was able to provide to homeless veterans in Indiana, reiterated that “this is what we do.”

“In our Preamble we talk about devotion to mutual helpfulness,” he said. “We have warm clothing for our homeless veterans, and I thank OCW and Past National Commander (James) Koutz (who helped raise over $1 million for OCW during his year as national commander). We are really supportive of OCW. So we are glad that some of it is coming back to Indiana.”

HVAF Community Engagement Coordinator Robert White reiterated the organization’s appreciation for The American Legion’s donation.

“God bless you all. Thank you so much for this,” he said. “This place gives me life; God has just blessed me to be here. I just want to continue to let folks know how appreciative I am of your support because we couldn’t do anything without you guys.”

OCW provides wounded warriors and veterans with items that are not covered by government agencies. Items have included toiletries, clothing, electronics, rehabilitation equipment, adaptive sporting equipment and other necessities.

To assist the funding for future donations, visit legion.org/operationcomfortwarriors.

“Thank you all for helping us better serve veterans in need,” Copes said. “So thanks for what you do.”