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AMVETS , Kohl’s team up for veterans fund raiser
July 4, 2018

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By CHUCK BALLARO

news@breezenewspapers.com

With a veteran population that's one of the largest in the country, the need to make sure local vets all have a place to live is important.

On Thursday, AMVETS Post 81 in North Fort Myers, with the help of Kohl's, came together to raise money to help Hearts & Homes for Veterans, a local non-profit organization that helps homeless veterans find a place to live.

Peg Milnes, president of the group's Ladies Auxiliary, said Post 81 does a lot of charity work on behalf of veterans, children and the community, but Hearts & Homes holds a special place in AMVETS' hearts.

"They help veterans get established and give them a hand up. We're very lucky we have a corporate partnership with Kohl's," Milnes said. "Our main goal is to get these veterans homes and off the streets."

Kohl's made a generous offer in which every five Kohl's employees who attended would bring Hearts & Homes $1,000, which was about what Milnes said she was hoping to raise. Last year's event raised about $1,500.

By 3 p.m., 10 Kohl's employees had arrived with more expected, putting them way ahead of last year's total.

AMVETS was also holding a taco lunch and dinner and a raffle to further raise money, as well as raise awareness of Hearts & Homes.

Tom Donoghue, vice president of Hearts & Homes, located in Fort Myers, said his group, which was incorporated in 2013, works with low-income and homeless veterans by providing aid and comfort for those still homeless by not only providing a path toward a home, but keeping them there.

"We give homeless people sleeping bags, tents and other things. We also help pay rental bills to keep them in their house," said Donoghue, whose group is expected to help about 800 veterans this year. "A lot of veterans get behind on their bills and we help pay the electric. It's more effective to keep them in their home than to pull them out of homelessness."

Hearts & Homes also has a warehouse on Alicia Street with household goods, box fans, dishes and a limited supply of furniture to "make an empty house a home."

Kevin Butwill, commander of the AMVETS post, said he was glad there were people coming in and donating and that several auxiliary members also work at Kohl's, which helped to increase the numbers.

Last week, AMVETS held an MDA event that raised more than $1,200. They are also raising money for their building fund, as their current location gets crowded at times.

"We do a lot of charity work here. We have three factions of AMVETS, Sons, Auxiliary and us, and we do events at the local, state and national level. We also raise money for scholarships," Butwill said. "We try to do a lot."

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