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Homeless veterans drive under way

The Farmville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7059 Homeless Veterans Drive, now under way through Nov. 7, had a real down-to-earth way beginning in 2010. The annual effort, launched by former Post Commander Tom Hicks, started with a sock drive for veterans in McGuire VA Medical Center.

“I was standing by the nurses’ station, and I heard a nurse come up and ask for socks,” Hicks explained. “Another nurse told her they were out of socks.”

Hicks decided that situation was unacceptable, so the local veteran came back to Farmville and started a sock drive. That collection, conducted from the back of Hicks’ pickup truck, netted 1,800 pairs of socks.

In 2012 when Hicks learned of the high rate of homeless veterans in the Richmond area, he brought up the idea of a Homeless Veterans Clothing Drive to Post 7059 members. The project was approved and has become an ongoing effort. Last year roughly $30,000 worth of clothing and personal items was collected locally for distribution at the annual Stand Down held every year at McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond.

“I began collecting clothing in February,” Hicks said of this year’s drive. “So this year the collection is a little different. We’re looking for healthcare items.”

Suggested items include stocking caps, gloves, shower shoes, socks and underwear, hand warmers and personal hygiene items. Also needed are granola bars and packaged crackers, trail mix, raisins and beef jerky. Items are needed for both men and women as well as clothing for children and infants.

“Some homeless veterans have families and children,” Hicks said. “We also need baby diapers.”

Hicks will be at the VFW Post, 1616 Graham Road, Farmville, every Saturday through Nov. 7, 10 a.m. to noon, to receive donations. Other collection locations are Merk’s Place and Carpet House. Monetary donations can be sent to Tom Hicks, 414 Cook Johnson Road, Prospect, Va. 23960.

“Most people don’t know what to do to help a veteran until someone like me comes along,” Hicks said. “Then they respond. My mission in life is to help veterans.”

Stand Down, like the one in Richmond, are part of the Department of Veterans Affairs effort to provide services to homeless veterans. The McGuire event offers health care screenings and services, assistance in applying for VA benefits and Social Services, employment counseling and job referrals and a variety of community-based services in addition to clothing and personal hygiene items.