An ‘experiment’ for vets

Published 3:15 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2016

While the Five County Fair offered an assortment of food, candy, games and new rides this year, it also offered a way for the community to give back to veterans across the nation.

Howard Jenkins, 71, a self-described third-generation carny, said his “experiment” of selling hats and giving 100 percent of the profits to veterans suffering with health issues, especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), went very well.

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Farmville was one of the first places he’s tried his new project.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2005, and I’ve been doing something to help veterans ever since,” the Knoxville, Tenn., resident said while sitting in his booth chock-full of colorful hats.

Jenkins served in Vietnam for more than 10 months.

“They were pushing guys out when I was there,” he said.

He was in the Army for two and a half years, and said he actually enjoyed every minute of it.

“Well, I was about to get out of (Belmont University in Nashville). I thought I had it made; I thought I was safe,” Jenkins said about why he joined the Army. “I was about to get drafted. In order to graduate, I had a couple of deferments.”

After fighting in Vietnam, he considered staying in the Army, but said there were “other things I could do.”

“This is my first year trying this,” he said of selling the hats. “And it’s working. Next year, I’m going to either enlarge this or get a bigger trailer.”

Jenkins said he usually buys his hats online. He has a proceeds box to complement his hat sales.

“The profits we make off these hats goes to Veterans Treatment Court,” he said of a program that includes treatment for veterans.

Jenkins sells all kinds of themed hats, including ones featuring politics, religion and the branches of the service.

“Positive most of the time, yeah,” he said of the reaction he gets from people when he tells them about his project. “When they say, ‘The hats are too expensive,” I say, ‘Where else can you buy a quality hat and help a veteran at the same time?’ Nine times out of 10 they say, ‘Well, I’ll buy the hat just because the money’s going to help veterans.’ And that’s what I want to hear.”

Jenkins said the response to his “experiment” at the fair was very good.

His next stop is South Boston, followed by Chase City.

He said Fair Manager Auburn Estes donated the location for his booth.

“What he has done is very generous,” Jenkins said of Estes.

Jenkins’ hats range from $14-$18.