Helping Heroes

PARKERSBURG – A student organization at West Virginia University at Parkersburg gathered donations Wednesday for area homeless veterans.

Justin Anthony, treasurer for the WVU-Parkersburg Veterans Corps, said Wednesday the event is part of the club’s Homeless Veterans Outreach program. The Veterans Corps asked for donations of travel-sized hygiene items, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, wet wipes, sunscreen and chapstick, which will be gathered in gallon-sized plastic bags.

“Our goal was to have enough items to assemble 50 bags,” Anthony said. By midday Wednesday, “we had met our goal and half our goal for next year.”

The group accepted monetary donations and sold smoothies to raise additional funds.

Though the fundraising activity was only planned for Wednesday, Anthony said the group will continue to take donations from the public in the days and weeks to come. Those interested should contact the college or club members to make a donation, he said.

“I’m astonished at the community support in this area for our veterans,” Anthony said. “It’s overwhelming.”

Anthony said it is particularly difficult to aid homeless veterans because some simply do not want to be identified. Anthony said several area organizations, including the Salvation Army and local veterans groups, help identify homeless veterans in the area so the packets can be delivered.

Homelessness among veterans has been increasing due to extend periods of overseas service, often in active warzones. Many vets suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and can lose jobs and housing due to medical issues.

“The VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) estimates there are more than 300,000 homeless vets,” nationally, Anthony said.

West Virginia has one of the highest rates of military service and a high population percentage of veterans. Anthony said West Virginia University at Parkersburg has about 200 veterans enrolled in classes at any given time and the Veterans Corps club has a core group of about 20 members.

The WVU-P Veterans Corps is based in the college’s Veterans Resource Center, located in the former day care center near the multipurpose room. For more information on the Veterans Club, call the Veterans Resource Center at 304-424-8337.