Veterans in Hillsborough County get Christmas treats from area charities
Hillsborough County Veterans were given gifts and lunch in recognition of their service Friday at The Veterans Memorial Park in East Tampa. Some of the vets are homeless with no families to spend time with during the holidays, while others have successfully transitioned from military service to civilian life.
The Hillsborough Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program planned on feeding and pampering as many as 50 vets during its Veterans holiday lunch.
This is the only Christmas that a lot of them are going to have.
Curtis Wilson is a veteran service officer for Hillsborough County. He filled a cooler with soda and water as volunteers and employees of the veteran-owned IT company Vykin stuffed red, white and green gift bags.
goodies, food, cookies, chips, hygiene items, sometimes gift cards you never know what Vykin is going to provide for the vets.
The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program assists about 70 vets every year by offering employment assistance and other services. But the luncheon, Wilson says, is just to give back a little something extra.
We go home and we have a nice home and we have family. A lot of these guys dont have homes, they dont have families, they dont have anybody in the community. So, this is something that we just like to do to try to assist them during this time of year not only during this time of year, but throughout the year.
Because many homeless veterans dont have access to transportation, volunteers pooled various resources to make sure the participants in the reintegration program were able to make it.
[HART], some of the other organizations are providing them with their own transportation. Weve done bus tickets and also, we brought some of the vets out ourselves.
But the luncheon doesnt just target homeless vets. People like Tara Perkins, a U.S. Navy Veteran, have climbed their way out of jobless situations and into meaningful employment by utilizing county resources.
It gave me an opportunity to feel like I was in a place and there was a need for me.
Perkins now does administrative work at the VA Hospital in Tampa. She got the job after meeting with a specialist in the reintegration program.
Making the transition from the military to the civilian sector is different. When youre in the military, you always know where your next step is going to be because theyre going to tell you, ok, youre done here and its time to move on and were going to send you here. When youre in the civilian world you have to kind of figure it out on your own. You dont have that person to say, youre going to go here now and youre going to do this. So, it gave me a direction set a path for me.
But for the hundreds of veterans in the Tampa Bay area who havent been able to make that transition, Perkins has one message.
There are programs that are out there for people for veterans such as myself and them as well. Dont give up. Use all the resources that are there. There are definitely lots and lots of resources for us veterans, so dont give up.
You can also get help by calling 813-276-2976, ext. 55842.
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