Vietnam veterans come to aid of shelter

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 26, 2012 at 8:34 AM

Thanks to the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, the lights are on this week at Hughes Homes for Heroes’ Langland House, a five-bedroom transitional shelter on East Myrtle Avenue where five formerly homeless veterans are working their way back to self-sufficiency.

After reading about the shelter’s struggles in last week’s Good Neighbor column, Jerry Campbell with the local VVA chapter said the membership decided to take care of a $383 past due power bill that was threatening to put the veterans at Langland in the dark.

“I am extremely appreciative of them to come forward and help,” HHH founder and director Sandra Gruber said. “(Campbell) came that day and got the bill and stayed and visited at the house. All of them are invited to do that and so is anyone else who would like to come. We would love to have them,” she said.

In the meantime, Gruber said, the Vietnam Veterans’ assistance has brought the shelter current on its monthly expenses and its operation is secure at least for the next couple of weeks. But the financial challenge at Langland House remains and its lease and utility bills will come due again in August.

Now in its second year, the nonprofit HHH organization was known as “Citizens Soldiers” until only a few weeks ago, when a conflict with the recruiting slogan used by the Army National Guard resulted in its name change and the loss of the Facebook recognition that had helped keep the shelter running. With the name change, donations to operate the transitional house for veterans referred from the homeless service program at Veterans Affairs Medical Center have dwindled and put the shelter at risk of closing its doors. Gruber is working now to recruit groups and individuals to provide ongoing support for the shelter, and more volunteers to help with its operation. Without that support, she said, the shelter’s future remains in jeopardy.

For those who wish to help, the new Hughes Homes for Veterans Facebook page includes a PayPal link for donations. Or donations may be made by mail to Hughes Homes for Veterans, 702 E. Myrtle Ave., Johnson City, TN 37601. More information about the shelter may be obtained by contacting Gruber at 557-9059, 631-0222 or sandra.gruber98@yahoo.com.

A benefit concert featuring the nationally known Southern gospel groups Palmetto State and The Freemans will be held Aug. 4 at Unicoi County High School for Honor Flight of Northeast Tennessee, a local affiliate of a national organization that treats World War II veterans and veterans who are disabled to VIP trips to tour the national war memorials in Washington, D.C.

Both groups have extended generous discounts on their bookings fees for the Honor Flight benefit and local supporters have covered all the cost of the concert so that 100 percent of ticket sales can be used to take more veterans to Washington.

Edie Lowry, president and CEO of the local 501c3 nonprofit Honor Flight organization, said 22 local veterans and 22 volunteer care givers who will serve as their escorts are lined up for the group’s first trip to D.C. in early October and registration is under way for a second trip planned for April. To make those trips possible, the group has raised about $25,000 in donations from the local community, including a recent $5,000 gift from Johnson City Honda.

Because of the $70,000 cost of chartering a flight to Washington, local Honor Flight excursions will be made by charter bus for the time being, and the fundraising is continuing. Tickets to the concert are $17 and may be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 735-8877 or 330-6189. More information about the local Honor Flight group is available online at www.honorflightnetn.com or may be obtained by calling Lowry at 330-6189 or 735-8877. Donations to help with its special trips may be made by mail to Honor Flight Northeast Tennessee, 1005 Otekiska Extension, Erwin, TN 37650.

Today is Dairy Queen’s annual Miracle Treat Day for Children’s Miracle Network services for children receiving care at local Wellmont Health System hospitals. At participating Dairy Queen restaurants in the local community and nationwide, $1 or more from every frozen Blizzard treat sold will be donated to Children’s Miracle Network. All money raised by the promotion in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia will be used to provide medical equipment and care for children in the local region.

If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605 1717 or 929-3111, ext. 335.

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