Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Disabled and homeless veterans in Niagara County hope to receive a boost this weekend during an event at the Elks Club that's raising money to create in Lockport a permanent supportive living facility.
More than 10 percent of Niagara County's 19,000 veterans are disabled or homeless, so Kids Breaking Free Foundation, Inc. and Orleans/Niagara BOCES have teamed up to create a fundraiser for them, and a challenge for the rest of Western New York.
“It’s practically criminal not to have housing or emergency services for veterans here,” said Jennifer D’Andrea-Terreri, founder of Kids Breaking Free.
The fundraiser Saturday runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features food, a car show, bounce houses, activities for the kids, give-aways, music, raffles, and more.
A group of volunteers were at the Elks Club on Monday preparing bags containing food and personal hygiene products for area veterans. The items were donated during a recent canned food drive.
Approximately 75 veterans will be transported to the event from surrounding areas and various veteran’s service agencies will also be on-site to provide information and immediate linkage to services.
Kids Breaking Free Foundation and Orleans/Niagara BOCES have also challenged everyone in Western New York to donate $1 to their Western New York Veterans Challenge, in which all proceeds will go toward rehabilitating or constructing the home. Donations can be made at any First Niagara Bank in the account named "WNY Veterans Challenge."
While they await a home, the veterans are also set to receive a different kind of boost — one one wheels that will be on display at tonight's 4th of July parade and at Saturday's fundraiser.
Mercedes-Benz of Buffalo has offered to assist with the transportation needs by providing the use of a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter passenger van.
The Sprinter seats up to 12 adults and with an interior roof height of up to 6’4” the veterans are free to stand up, sit down and stretch out. The extended model has a wheel base of 170” which provides an extra cargo area that can be easily converted so that it is wheelchair accessible.
“The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van is the perfect option for transporting our Veterans comfortably and as often as needed from our soon-to-open facility”. D’Andrea-Terreri added. “Rich Perry, Sprinter Brand Manager, and everyone else at Mercedes-Benz of Buffalo have been such a wonderful support of our cause."
The Mercedes Benz Sprinter will be on display during the Lockport Independence Day Parade tonight and people will be able to get an up-clsoe look of the van at Saturday's fundraiser at the Elks Lodge, 6791 North Canal Road.
For more information on the fundraiser, visit www.homelessveteranswny.com.