On November 11, Veterans Day, the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania (EPA) held a ceremony at the 23rd Street Armory in Philadelphia to honor local veterans. CEO Judge Renée Cardwell Hughes was joined by Red Cross leadership, volunteers and staff, as well as local dignitaries, including board members Eric Helt of PECO, Darrel German of Wells Fargo and Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick J.V. Sawyer. Darrel is an active colonel in the Army Reserve, and Fire Commissioner Sawyer retired from the Air Force as a master sergeant. Dunkin’ Donuts and Wawa provided refreshments for all attendees.
American Red Cross Divisional Disaster Executive and retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Scott Graham delivered the keynote address honoring all who served in the United States military. While he served in Iraq, his mother-in-law passed away. Were it not for the Red Cross’ emergency communication service, he would not have known.
EPA honored three veterans who earned medals in the National Veterans Wheel Chair Games that were held in Philadelphia this past August. The veterans won medals in events such as hand cycling, softball, swimming and air rifle target shooting.
The Red Cross takes pride in its work with local veterans and its partnerships with the organizations that serve them; however, despite the commitment of volunteers, homeless veterans have difficulty accessing information and services that exist to help them when they return from duty. The Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) team works with area veteran service organizations to help bring free programs and services directly to veterans.
One such program is Totes of Hope. For months, EPA collected comfort items, such as toothbrushes, hand sanitizer and tissues, with the help of partners like Delta Disaster Services of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The items were packaged in small totes, and after the Veterans Day ceremony, 200 Totes of Hope were distributed to several veterans’ service organizations in the area. Project HOME, which has various programs and initiatives related to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty in Philadelphia, was one of the recipients. The bags were distributed by one of their Street Outreach teams on their weekly walks around the city in search of homeless veterans. The totes were delivered to these service organizations by Red Cross volunteers, as well as students from a Red Cross Club from the Girard Academic Music Program.
EPA hopes to make Totes of Hope distribution a yearly event to honor Veterans Day.
“We’re looking forward to holding this program annually with the goal of reaching all homeless veterans throughout the region. It’s unacceptable that we still have homeless veterans,” Judge Hughes said.