Veteran-owned cafe draws crowd in Merrillville, Ind.

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (WLS) -- Open only five weeks, Veterans Grill and Cafe in Merrillville, Ind., is already attracting a crowd. Diners come for the food and to support veterans who own the caf and work there.

"This cafe is actually veteran-owned. Fifty-one percent of it is veteran-owned and that comes from some of the homeless veterans, so now they can help themselves," Bessie Anthony Hitchcock, co-owner at Veterans Cafe and Grill, said.

Most of the employees are veterans, too. Brian Cody is a former Marine who was homeless and battling debilitating medical issues just a few years ago.

"I was hopeless. I had no hope," Cody said. "This is the result of a lot of support and a lot of hard work and me doing the next right thing."

The for-profit restaurant was created to help fund a non-profit transitional housing center. Veterans Life Changing Services offers stable housing and social services to homeless veterans in what used to be a church rectory.

Vietnam vet and psychologist Henry Hitchcock and his wife, Bessie, opened the center in 2009. Army veteran Marjorie Newman was the first woman to move into the facility. She says it has been a lifeline.

"It was peaceful. I had a roof over my head. I had food. I didn't have to worry about being under a bridge or something like that. So, it saved me," Newman said.

Veterans Life Changing Services gets no government funding and relies solely on donations.

On August 24, the American Veterans Motorcycle Riders Association and the Gary South Shore Railcats baseball team will host a charity motorcycle ride at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary.
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