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Red Cross Helps Veterans in Charleston Community

The Red Cross is a great partner

CHARLESTON, S.C. – It may seem like a plain black backpack however, to a homeless veteran it’s much more. This simple backpack signifies security and peace of mind for a veteran receiving services from Veterans Affairs.

The backpack program is part of an ongoing effort by the VA in Charleston to help the estimated more than 700 homeless veterans, or on the verge of homelessness, in the Greater Charleston area. The Red Cross Palmetto SC Region’s Service to the Armed Forces staff is providing 30 back packs a month through June for the VA homeless veteran program at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston.

The backpack program came about after the VA staff started a homeless primary care team to work with homeless veterans in the Charleston area. During their visits team members noticed the veterans needed help could use to carry their personal belongings and valuables. The American Red Cross stepped in to help.

“Jeanne Carmichael from the Red Cross called and asked what I needed, and I said backpacks,” said Fred Lesinski, chief of voluntary services with the VA at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. “The Red Cross is a great partner. “

The Red Cross was able to use donated funds to buy backpacks for the homeless veterans to store their belongings. As the veterans switch into transitional housing, the backpacks are there to secure those valuables. The bags also become a resource to put medical documents, prescription information, and other valuables as the veterans receive additional help through the VA.

“The backpacks are the tip of the iceberg,” Lesinki said. “The iceberg is the generosity of our community.”

Lesinski said their purpose is to “seek, obtain and deploy non-appropriated resources to help veterans and the VA staff create the best possible health outcomes.”

A backpack may seem like something small, but it can mean a world of difference to a homeless veteran.

“We saw it as a need that needed to be met and it was an important need,” Jeanne Carmichael, regional Service to the Armed Forces manager, said.

The American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and our nation’s veterans is at the cornerstone of who we are and what we do. The Red Cross helps the Charleston-area veterans through volunteers and donations to the VA hospital, including donated small portable fans for the patients to use in their rooms, and small electronic devices for patients. In April 2013, the Red Cross Palmetto SC Region donated $2,000 worth of bus passes to the VA so veterans could access VA and other services in the community.

For more information on other Service to the Armed Forces programs or to find ways to help, please contact Jeanne Carmichael at