Local veterans welcome much needed holiday drive donations during special holiday luncheon
The City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County’s 12th Annual Holiday Drive concluded on December 16, with the delivery of donations to veterans at the Center for Veterans Issues: VETS Place Central.
Beginning with a performance by the Pius XI Catholic High School choir, the highlight of the event was a holiday meal catered by the Troop Café. The lunch was provided by the Brewer’s Community Foundation and served over 70 veterans. To help spread holiday cheer, staff elves passed out holiday cards and decorations created by the boys and girls at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee, as well as homemade desserts.
“Veterans and their families make many sacrifices that allow us as Americans to enjoy our freedoms,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “It’s important for us as a community, and for us as a nation, to pay tribute to you – the individuals who have made sacrifices on our behalf and particularly at Christmas. So for the holiday season, we want you to know that we are very thankful for everything that you have done for us.”
For the past 12 years, the Holiday Drive has worked to spread holiday cheer by collecting items on the Center’s wish list. Donation bins were installed inside City Hall, the Courthouse, and other facilities across Milwaukee County from November 22 to December 13. Thousands of household items, games, winter clothing and toiletries were collected from the community. In addition, baked holiday desserts were also donated for the luncheon.
The City of Milwaukee surprised the Center for Veterans Issues: VETS Place Central with nearly $9,000 worth of items on the Center’s wish list. These items included: a smart television, Xbox One and PS4 gaming systems, 10 laptops, 500 showers shoes, 20 mattresses, bedding, pillows and gift cards. The Brewer’s Community Foundation provided financial support in supplying these items.
“As a former Marine, I understand the vulnerabilities of being a veteran, and I know that we are stronger together,” said Christine Westrich, Director of Milwaukee County’s Office of Emergency Management. “This annual drive really exemplifies the generosity of our society, especially here locally.”
When the program was started years ago, holiday things were sent to troops overseas. In recent years it was decided that since charity begins at home, and less Milwaukee service members were being deployed abroad, that local veterans needed more care and support instead.
“These donations will help our current veterans, as well as the veterans that we will have in the future,” Dr. Berdie Cowser, Bureau Director of VETS Place. “We are so thankful, because these donations will really help us to defray the cost that it takes for us to operate this location.”
The Center for Veterans Issues (CVI) is Wisconsin’s largest community-based veteran’s organization. The organization works to end veteran homelessness, and provides holistic services that include support for veteran families, housing, environmental therapy, education, training, and employment. VETS Place Central is a 90-bed transitional living facility for homeless veterans.
“I am proud to support the Center for Veteran’s Issues, and I commend everyone across Milwaukee County who has come together with their neighbors to get involved with the 12th Annual Holiday Drive,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. “We have a responsibility to help our veterans live in a community that is worthy of their sacrifice, and this is a great way to honor them by coming together this holiday season to support those that are less fortunate.”