A small band of heroes will be taking to the streets of Halifax on Feb. 4 to make a difference in the lives of homeless veterans during a VETS Canada Boots on the Ground event. Among the volunteers, this time an Honorary Colonel of 14 Wing Greenwood, the first female honary colonel in the wing’s history, and Dragon’s Den personality Barb Stegemann.
From time to time, usually once a month, VETS Canada gathers its volunteers to conduct Boots on the Ground missions in different cities across Canada. These events serve as an opportunity to collectively find and assist veterans while giving a face to their cause.
“Everybody gets together, and we shine a spotlight on the situation, and we get a chance to talk to the people in the community,” said Jim Lowther, President, and CEO of VETS Canada.
For the Feb. 4th event, Lowther, his wife Debbie, Chair and Co-Founder VETS Canada, will be amongst the 20 volunteers ready to take on the streets of Halifax. On the day of, they will break into groups of two or three and will be equipped with their supplies, maps and name tags to accomplish the mission.
Though the goal is to find and assist homeless veterans, the Boots on the Ground events are much more than that. They are an opportunity to reach out to the community.
“We are able to hand out warm gloves and scarves and jackets and Tim Horton’s cards to all homeless people. This is what we do. So, people get excited when they know we’re gong to hit the streets because they know that we’re not just going to walk by them, we’re going to help them out too. We’re looking for veterans, but we’re serving our community. Same as we did when we were in the military,” added Lowther.
Typically during an event, Lowther and his team are able to find two to three homeless veterans. However, he says, many times they receive calls from veterans after the event.
“We talk to people in the shelters, and there are veterans, but they aren’t necessarily ready to come forward yet. So, they do a little bit of their own research on us and ask around and once they say, ‘oh okay these guys are real. They can help me,’ then they call,” explained Lowther.
Businesswoman and television personality Barb Stegemann will also be one of the volunteers on the streets of Halifax on Feb. 4. Stegemann and her husband have been longtime supporters of VETS Canada.
“They really believe in the cause. They really believe in what we’re doing,” said Lowther.
Lowther believes that the support of individuals like Stegemann can help to further the VETS Canada cause.
“We have a lot of support from some great people out there, and it’s good because hopefully it’ll shine a spotlight on what we’re doing and more people will know about the work we’re doing, and then, of course, more people will be able to be assisted,” affirmed Lowther.
Though Boots on the Ground is a staple event for VETS Canada, their major efforts come, says Lowther, in preventing homelessness.
“We have mothers, families, veterans who are just getting out of the military, legit fresh, a month out of the military and they’re waiting for their pensions, they’re waiting for the drug plans to get approved into place, and they’re really struggling. They would lose their homes, everything if we didn’t step in,” noted Lowther.
VETS Canada helps these families for several months in multiple capacities until they are stabilized.
The organization is made of 500 volunteers, and since 2010, they’ve assisted 1,500 homeless veterans and veterans in crisis.
He believes the success is due having volunteers and having donations going straight to the cause.
“It’s not rocket science. It’s pretty simple,” stated Lowther.
To learn how you can donate or get involved with VETS Canada, visit their website.