Lynda Campbell, a caseworker at Freedom Center, a shelter for homeless veterans in Indianapolis, greets motorcyclists from Brazil and other areas who donated items Saturday.
Thanks to people in the Wabash Valley, Hoosier homeless veterans will be warmer this winter.
"There were a total of 22 people that made the ride to the Freedom Center on the west side of Indianapolis to donate clothing, food, exercise equipment, personal hygiene items, blankets, gloves, scarves, hats, boots, socks, towels and wash cloths and money to help the homeless vets," said Ron Williams, a local disabled Vietnam veteran and the president of the King's Servants Ride Group of the Christian Motorcyclists Association. "The outpouring of items for these men was tremendous."
Besides people from Brazil, there were bikers from Sullivan, Terre Haute, Hope and Indianapolis.
"Once the word got out about the ride, people began giving us items to give to the homeless," Williams said. "We ended up with an enclosed motorcycle trailer full of donations. These guys really needed our help, and they got a lot of help from the Wabash Valley."
The Freedom Center is for homeless vets who need help fighting drug and alcohol addiction. Besides the Freedom Center, there is another center a few miles away. The Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation helps homeless and nearly-homeless veterans and their spouses and children by providing clothing, furniture and meals. There are also five scattered site houses and six houses for homeless vets that have completed the drug or alcohol program but still need the support of fellow graduates. These houses are known as the VISTA Center
Lynda Campbell, a caseworker at Freedom Center who helped coordinate the visit was very surprised with the donations.
"I can't believe it! We had no idea the scope of the donations you guys would bring," Campbell said. "Wow, there is a lot of stuff in (the trailer). Bikers are awesome. Our food pantry has been empty since March. A lot of the donations we normally get started going to disaster areas around the world. We are very grateful for everything we received today."
Following the unloading of the items, the bikers were invited inside the facility for pizza and coffee.
"We had a great time visiting with the guys there at the center," Williams said. "After our visit, we had a brief church service for the guys and several of them gave their testimonies. One person in particular really moved me. He told us how, before coming to the center, he had a piece of cardboard for a blanket and another piece of cardboard for a mattress. For that to happen here in Indiana is heart-breaking. These guys deserve better than that."
Freedom Center seeks long-term stability for veterans.
"Some of the residents of the center are not allowed to leave the building until they have been at the center for a month or so," Campbell said. "They really enjoy people coming in just to talk to them. Sure, there are about 50 guys here most of the time, the new guys really enjoy talking to people outside the immediate circle of people at the center."
The bikers are planning to go again in December, perhaps taking chili and corn bread to share with the vets. Anyone interested in going to visit the center are welcome as well.
Since the next visit will be near Christmas, the bikers are planning to take Christmas gifts to the guys.