The struggles veterans face when coming home from duty are all too familiar to Vietnam veteran Ken Barner.
It’s the reason he stepped up and agreed to help in 2008 when he was asked years ago to move a group of homeless veterans into a new apartment.
“I was asked because I had a truck and I had been involved in some veterans issues,” he said. “People kept referring us to others and it just got around that we were doing this.”
As his name got around, Barner realized the need is great not only for housing for veterans but for furniture once those veterans get back on their feet.
From his garage, Barner began supplying veterans who came to him with furniture for their new home. More than six years later, with the help of several friends, he formed Veterans for Veterans.
Vets for Vets, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, works with local shelters, social workers, counselors, and other veterans associations to identify homeless veterans transitioning to a new home. Once a lease is signed, Vets for Vets helps the veteran select needed furnishings and other household necessities from their various storage units. They provide a bed, lamps, a couch, a desk, and even dishes or a toaster as their supplies allow. Not all of the veterans’ needs are met, but it gives them a place to start to rebuild.
“They’re coming off the streets,” said Vets for Vets board member and Ahwatukee Foothills resident CJ Briggle. “They have nothing. We’re providing a community service at no cost and assisting veterans who served our country.”
Briggle said the age and gender of veterans the group helps covers a broad spectrum.
Veterans for Veterans doesn’t require anything from the veterans they help, but the vets must show identification once their furnishings are delivered.
Though the group is called Veterans for Veterans, the majority of board members in the group, like Briggle and fellow Ahwatukee Foothills resident Wendy Johnson, are not veterans. They chose to get involved because they know there is a need and they wanted to help.
“I have a lot of family members that have been in the military,” Briggle said. “I think vets don’t get enough acclaim. Anything I can do to assist vets organizations, I will be glad to do so.”
So far in 2013, Veterans for Veterans has helped 98 people furnish their new homes. They estimate that number will reach 120 by the end of the year. Their goal for next year is to help 200 veterans.
Vets for Vets has partnerships with Helen’s Hope Chest, Madison Street Veterans, A New Leaf, House of Refuge, Crossroads, East Valley Men’s Center, Denton House and U.S. Vets to reach veterans and to share supplies they cannot use. The group always has a need for monetary donations or any unwanted furniture. Veterans for Veterans will pick up unwanted furniture and take it away for free. The group also has a special need for warehouse space to store furniture.
For more information on the organization, visit www.vetsforvetsaz.org or call (602) 253-0759.
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