While covering CPAC for Freedom Daily last month, I had the good pleasure to meet Ryan Douglas, the executive director of Phoenix-A New Beginning, a non-profit group that helps homeless veterans get back on their feet. After a brief talk, Ryan and I exchanged cards, and promised to be in touch. About a week later he emailed a link to a press release & I promised to get a story up.
After going over the group’s Facebook page, watching their video, and reading stories of how they’ve helped veterans in need, I was humbled. Reading about how these active duty servicemen & women, veterans, and volunteers help our vets who are seriously in need, made me want to go out & do the same, and it was midnight.
I found a particularly moving story on their site about “Big Mike,” a veteran who had been homeless for five years.
I’ll just post the story verbatim as I certainly can do it no justice.
01/09/2016 – What a wonderful morning! We were on our way to Norfolk to a wonderful and very humble Veteran, who had been sleeping on the floor (!) But no more!!! Thanks to the generous donations of our donors!
Smiles, hugs, and tear filled eyes awaited us when we came to see this wonderful Veteran today. All he had was a medal folding chair and a small suitcase. Now he has a bed 🙂 I bet he will finally, after 5 years of homelessness, have a good night’s rest tonight. Finally we can say ‘Welcome Home!’
Can you say comfy? Next we replaced a hard wood floor with a sofa acquired through scouring craigslist by Maria Plaza and the other comfortable love seat was donated by Ms. Robin, to sit and enjoy a game! Finally supporting your team the right way 🙂
As we identified more items our Veteran could use, such as hangers, pillows, a lamp (the living room doesn’t have a light, odd!), here comes DC Graphic and Design to the rescue, with a truck full of items! Such outpour of compassion! So now picture this… now you have not only one person overjoyed and crying, but two! Boy I’m such a softy 🙂 Thank you(!!!!!) DC Graphic and Design – you guys are awesome!!
Finally a life worth living for this Veteran, thanks to our generous donors. Thank you all! DC Graphic and Design, Maria Plaza, Maria Wells, Maria Ullrich, Jason Jacobus, Judge Haugen, Mary Shockley, Ms. Robin, Ms. Stephanie, and so many more for making this happen!
In another story, from last Christmas, they relate how a homeless Marine Corps vet wouldn’t take blankets because others needed it more. The vet slept in “trash,” and it was freezing out.
Our last stop brought all of us to our knees. A Marine Corps Veteran, living underneath plastic sheeting draped over his cart, was happy to see us. As we tried to give him more water repellent blankets to shield him from the icy wind and rain, he waved them off stating that others would need them more than him.
This man lives in a pile of trash, The pile of trash is not some junk of the street that some of us would call trash. No this is actual trash placed in bags hanging from his cart. He feels that others are more deserving than him and does not want to impose on any one. Although he took some socks and Vienna sausages, he refused to take more blankets than the ones we had given him during our last visit in November. ‘Others are more deserving’ he says. This gentleman hasn’t had a break in life but never asks for anything.
We were able to help many, but unfortunately, the need was greater than the items we had on hand. In the hustle and bustle of this season, most forget what this is really supposed to be about…caring, love, and giving. But the members of CVMA 27-5, Phoenix – ANB, and our donors still remember and embrace this during the season and at any given opportunity.
One of the volunteers with Phoenix was a man named Judge Haugen. He was also a veteran. He had been with the group from the beginning. He passed away a little over a week ago. He’s the one with the beard in the picture below.
Deana Jacobus, the group’s founder, wrote about Judge:
Today will be a difficult day as we will lay a man to rest, who was the most selfless and good hearted person I know. Judge Haugen was my friend and mentor. In the beginning of this organization, he was one of the very few people who believed in this organization and in me. He was the reason this organization was created in order to ensure we are able to assist those who are usually ignored and cast away. I want to write so much about him right here, right now, but the words are failing me. Please pray for his wife and children today to have the strength to face so many people who have known and loved Judge.
Thank you Judge for all of your assistance and lessons. You will never be forgotten, but remembered everyday as we will continue the Phoenix mission with your standards in mind. I will leave you all with the following:
by Charles D. Williams
For fair winds and a following sea
The smell of salt in the air,
The feel of their skin as it’s touched by the spray
An albatross soaring above,
Dolphins in the ship’s wake at play
To witness a work of art that only God can create,
The sunset at the end of day
At night a million stars in the sky,
Safe anchorage in an islands lee
When the time comes to die as for all it must,
To awake in Sailors Heaven where nothing ever rusts
And always there would be,
Fair winds and following seas and long may your big jib draw! ~ Deana
The memorial service for Judge was packed with those he served, and volunteers with Phoenix.
A woman named Kristen left a message about Judge, and how Phoenix group had helped her veteran family.
RIP and thank you for getting myself and 7 children out of the shelters. I am hearing that we may have been the very last family you helped rescue as a Vet family I will make sure that your efforts and all others will not go to waste!!! I never got to meet you Mr Judge Haugen but will forever be grateful for your help and your compassion and unconditional love you have had towards our Vets and their families especially during hard times thank you so much again!!!!
Some of those helped by Phoenix.
A homeless veteran next to the tent he lives out of.
Veteran with some of the food & goods provided by Phoenix.
Feeding homeless veterans and those on hard times.
A quote from Phoenix’s site tells what they are all about:
“We are dedicated to assisting homeless and in-need Veterans in the transition from the street to a sustainable life by offering meals, clothing, Crisis Intervention, Safety Planning, Emergency Transportation, Community Education, and Public Awareness. Although our main focus is the homeless Veteran population, we NEVER turn away ANYONE in need. Every life matters.”
Watch this touching video about their time helping veterans in need and others in the community:
This amazing group of people who help our veterans who have been forgotten should be applauded. What an amazing testament of the hearts of Americans who care for those who selflessly served our country. God bless them, and our veterans.
Check out their Facebook page and give it a like: Phoenix, A New Beginning
You can visit their website for more news about the group, and donate or volunteer HERE.
Let’s help our vets by helping those who help them.