On a very sunny Saturday, June 4 some 100 people turned out to walk the Wildwood boardwalk to raise funds and awareness for Veteran homelessness. Hosted by the American Legion of New Jersey, all of the proceeds of the day were donated to Catholic Charities Veteran Services program. Initial estimates placed the funds raised at nearly $5,000.
“The outcome was beyond our expectations,” said Robert Looby, Chairman of the American Legion Department of New Jersey Employment, Homeless and Education Committee, who organized the event. “Veteran homelessness is a very important issue for us because American Legion is about veterans serving veterans.”
The donations will help Catholic Charities Veteran Services program provide case management services and financial support to veteran families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Members of American Legion posts from across the region turned out to walk. Among them was two-year-old Shane Dunn, who presented Taylor with a $1,085 donation raised by Sons of the American Legion Squadron 338 in Leonardo, NJ. The Knights of Columbus Council of St. Damien parish in Ocean City donated $2,000 for the cause. Hundreds of T-shirts were sold before the event.
Joining the gathering was Dale Barnett, National Commander of the American Legion. Barnett has visited walks raising awareness for the American Legion in 35 states as he makes his way around the country promoting the organization.
According to the most recent HUD-mandated Point In Time survey of the homeless in New Jersey, there are nearly 700 homeless veterans in the state, though many service-providers believe the number to be higher. In the six Southern counties served by Catholic Charities, veterans make up 42% of the total homeless population, according to the Point In Time survey.
“I’m so grateful for the help of the American Legion and so many organizations that participated to make this event what it was,” said Mark Taylor, Director of Catholic Charities Veteran Services. “There are so many veterans that need help and that money really goes a long way.”