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Veterans assist lawmakers in filling care packages for homeless veterans

Greensburg Daily News - 2/11/2020

Feb. 11--INDIANAPOLIS -- More than 7,000 items ranging from food to body care products covered tables at the Statehouse Monday and put in care packages to be distributed to homeless veterans across Indiana.

Lawmakers in the Indiana House lawmakers launched a partnership with the American Legion Department of Indiana in the 2020 legislative session to help veterans in need of basic supplies, as simple as soup and crackers or toilet paper and body wash. They noted that homelessness among veterans has increased 6% since 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

House lawmakers and more than 30 members of the Indiana Legion put together about 250 hygiene kits and 250 emergency food kits.

Veteran Ron Patterson of the American Legion in Muncie said it's a blessing to be able to put together care packages, and demonstrates Hoosier hospitality. Patterson is a former Army paratrooper.

Patterson said it is mind boggling for him to realize how many calls he would receive from veterans asking for help.

"It's simple things as a $100 electric bill they can't pay, so they'll have to go without heat, to someone can't buy formula for their children," Patterson said. "To see all this food and products going out like this, it's really inspiring that state representatives are here and decided to do this."

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, walked alongside the tables that were lined with the varies of food and personal care, picking items to go into the care package. Along the way, members of the American Legion assisted in packing the boxes.

For each of the last 10 years, lawmakers have selected a charitable group to work with from women suffering from abuse to building houses for Habitat for Humanity.

On a legislative level, Bosma said there are several bills that aim to support veterans, including House Bill 1398, which will help veterans offset the cost of education.

"With the growth of homeless veterans, a spike in Indiana, with so many people that are serving, we decided veterans to be our focal point," Bosma said. "The American Legion of Indiana is a critical, critical outreach to those gentlemen and ladies. To walk through and hear some of their personal service stories is wonderful as well."

House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, worked alongside his Republican colleague preparing packages.

"While often Democrats and Republicans debate on some issues on the House floor, we certainly agree to do everything we can when it comes to our Hoosier veterans and helping them out," GiaQuinta said.

Veteran Tommy Goul from American Legion Post 437 from Selma, Indiana said he loves being a part of outreach events that provide services to veterans in need. Goul said that even if a Hoosier isn't a part of the American Legion they can still help.

"As a state, and non-veterans, if they just realize the sacrifices that these people went through and gave," Goul said.

In addition to the event hosted Monday, legislators created #HelpHoosierHeroes to raise awareness about homeless veterans, and the resources that may be available.

"We appreciate [the Statehouse] for letting us come here to do this," Goul said. "Don't forget us."

Lacey Watt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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