Locals are coming together to give retired veterans a Christmas to remember. Stone County residents and businesses are participating in the second annual Adopt-a-Vet program put together by the Veterans OutReach organization for the Collins State Veteran Home. Local residents adopted about 50 out of the 148 veterans at the home. Jack’s Plant and Patio, Southern Turnings, Southbound Overstock, and Crate & Pallet Clothing Co. are serving as adonation drop-off locations.

The donation drive began on November 12 and will end on December 4. Gift bags are put together to give veterans necessities such as sweatsuits with no elastics, robes, sweaters, underwear, and socks. Puzzles, snacks, and other fun items are encouraged as well.

The bags will be handed out on December 8 for the veteran’s annual Christmas party where they have dinner with their families. This program is spread over Wiggins, Hattiesburg, Collins, etc. It is one of many programs Veterans OutReach organizes each year.

Veterans Outreach is a 501c3 organization that consists of no paid employees. They are a member of the Covington County Chamber of Commerce. The all-volunteer group operates on grants and money raised from fundraising events. They also sell t-shirts, accept donations, and organize raffles to help carry out the various programs that assist their veteran residents. Their mission is to “provide spiritual guidance and counseling and to furnish goods and services not otherwise supplied by the State of MS and/or other government agencies.”

President James Sanford of the Veterans OutReach organization saw the need for the veterans to be ministered to in 1999 and established this organization in 2000. He started serving as a volunteer pastor of the Collins State Veteran Home over 21 years ago. Th eorganization’s current vice president, Holly Scanlon of Wiggins, met Sanford at the home where her mother-in-law is a veteran.

After witnessing Sanford’s committment to assisting retired veterans, Scanlon was inspired to join the organization. She continues to supoort veterans to show her appreciation for serving the country.

“Even if you don’t know them personally, you do have a personal tie to our veterans. You know your personal freedoms because of them,” says Scanlon.

 Last year during Covid-19, funds were at a halt and Adopt-a-Vet was started to bring joy to the veteran residents. Some of the residents served in World War II and some have even outlived their own families. Volunteers make regular visits when allowed, to establish friendship and to express their love, appreciation, and respect for each resident.

“We plan to do this every year from now on, it was so successful last year,” Scanlon said.

She said the organization also

provides a service for the activities department by fulfilling any needs that may arise.

Scanlon said cookies and other snacks are always provided in abundance as well as any other supplies. Meals are funded almost every month for the residents, homecooked or barbequed. Funds have been raised to purchase patio furniture, whirlpool tubs for relaxation, and a new courtyard for easier access to residents, said Scanlon.

‘We bring awareness to the veterans of our community and show them that we love them and still care. We want them to know we haven’t forgotten about them or what they’ve done for our country,” she said.

For more information on how to support or to join the organization:

·   The Veterans OutReach of Mississippi in Collins can be contacted by the number 228-424-1784 or 601-765-6905.

·     The Veterans OutReach of Mississippi in Kosciusko can be contacted by the number 662-582-3322 or 601-765-6905.

· The Veterans OutReach of Mississippi can be emailed at veteransoutreachofms@gmail.com 

·   The Veterans OutReach of Mississippi can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/VeteransOutreach

·  Donations to Veterans OutReach are deductible under section 170 of the IRS Code.

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