Operation Duffel Bag helps homeless vets

December 26, 2009 1:33:59 PM PST
A Chicago-area family is helping an organization that supports our nation's homeless veterans.Those who take part in the program-- code-named Operation Duffel Bag-- are finding that a small donation of time and supplies can go a long way towards helping veterans.

Regina Kwan Peterson lives in Oak Park. Her husband commutes to and from Los Angeles for work and her son attends college in Tennessee. It's rare they're in the same place at one time.

"It was a way to spend a day together doing something that we thought was purposeful and just sort of getting into the spirit of giving," said Kwan Peterson.

While everyone is home for the holidays, they decided at least one day would be spent focused on others.

"It's definitely been in our family giving back to the community. So this is just another extension of that," said Loren Peterson, volunteer.

The Petersons are packing daily essentials as part of a program dubbed, Operation Duffel Bag. The supplies are distributed to homeless veterans. Joseph Peterson is a criminal justice professor. He sees this project not only as a family activity, but as an effort to help break a cycle.

"In my work, it just is so clear that poverty and homelessness and persons who are otherwise disadvantaged frequently get pulled into the criminal justice process and I think we all need to be mindful of that and to do something to help these individuals who are on the street and without a home," said Joseph Peterson.

Hazel Jacobs served in the Army from 1979 to 1982 in what was then West Germany. She is now homeless and grateful for the gift.

"A flashlight means a lot to me, so I was excited to see the items that were in the bag: a flashlight, socks, toiletries," said Jacobs, "Those kinds of things are real important to someone who's trying to get back up on their feet."

Eric Davis is the chief operating officer of the Illinois chapter of Volunteers of America --the organization that's sponsoring this effort. The group also offers housing referrals and job readiness training to homeless vets -- plus clothing that can be worn on an interview.

"A lot of people don't realize that here in this city, one out of three males that you see in the street is probably a veteran, an honorably discharged veteran. And on any given night in this city, there are anywhere from a thousand to 15-hundred veterans sleeping on the streets of Chicago," said Eric Davis, COO, Volunteers of America- Illinois.

Volunteers of America- Illinois is expected to break ground on a housing complex next spring for homeless veterans on the city's west side.

Related links:

  • Operation Duffel Bag
  • Volunteers of America Illinois

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