Iowa Community Cooks Hot Dogs for Homeless VetsThe Veterans Site
The Black Hawk County Veterans Affairs Commission uses a unique tactic to meet area veterans. Every Wednesday at 11 a.m., from late April to late June, members of the commission host a hot dog lunch at Lincoln Park in downtown Waterloo, Iowa. The grilled hot dogs aren’t just about putting food in people's stomachs. Homeless Veterans
Kevin Dill, the commission’s executive director, grills the hot dogs as a way to get to know the county's homeless veterans. Many times, homeless vets may not like people intruding where they live, so Dill serves lunches as a way to get the veterans out into society and into better situations. The commission's main goals are to put veterans in touch with federal, state and local services that lead to better lives for those who served. To do that, Dill said many people help with the hot dog lunches.
Several businesses contribute time, money and resources to have the cookout. Homeless vets are served hot dogs, chips and soda. The very first lunch occurred despite heavy rains – Dill noted that six veterans arrived among the raindrops as Air Force vet Damian Spratt helped grill the meals. Dill expects attendance to rise as more homeless vets become aware of the lunches. Volunteers distribute fliers near places where homeless people gather, and the lunches' attendance should improve once warmer weather comes to the area and people hear of the program through word-of-mouth.
Building on Success
Dill ran a similar lunchtime program in the Des Moines area that eventually served around 30 veterans each week. In Black Hawk County, anywhere from five to 30 veterans are homeless at any given time. The ultimate goal of the lunches is to put each veteran into stable living conditions. In addition to helping vets sign up for federal benefits, the Black Hawk County Veterans Commission provides emergency assistance for food, shelter, medical, dental and utilities as part of an overall effort to make the lives of veterans easier.
Every little bit, including a weekly hot dog meal, helps veterans realize there is help and hope for a better life. Do your part by sponsoring meals for homeless veterans in your community.