Helping Homeless Veteran Families
by Lu Ann Franklin, NWI Times
HAMMOND | Eliminating homelessness among America’s military veterans will take community efforts and partnerships, according to the chairman of the NWI Veterans Action Council.
That kind of effort by the 63 members of the Hessville Eagle Riders raised $5,000 during the group’s fifth annual charity benefit ride at the Hammond FOP on June 27. The funds will be used to rehab a Hammond home donated to Habitat for Humanity for a veteran family, said Michael Sparber, chairman of the NWI Veterans Action Council.
On Monday, the motorcycle riders presented a symbolic check for that amount to Sparber and Dan Klein, executive director of Habitat for Humanity, at the Hessville Eagle Riders No. 3117 headquarters, 6212 Kennedy Ave.
“They’re fantastic to raise that kind of money. Northwest Indiana is a small community, and there are so many nonprofits competing for funding,” Sparber said. “We’re also always looking for veterans who want to go through the qualifying process with Habitat for Humanity.”
The Hessville Eagle Riders are part of the Fraternal Order of the Eagle nonprofit organization “that is about family and helping the community, and has 218 members,” said Dave Whitworth, president of the Hessville Eagle Riders No. 3117. “Our motto is ‘People Helping People’.”
“Most of us ride Harleys, but we will take those with two or three wheels,” he said with a chuckle.
The charity benefit rides began in 2010, and each year the Eagle Riders vote on a charity to be the recipient of the funds raised, Whitworth said. The Veterans Build partnership between Habitat for Humanity and the NWI Veterans Action Council garnered the most votes this year.
It all began when Eagle Riders read a story in The Times about the home on Tennessee Avenue in Hessville that was donated to Habitat for Humanity by North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan as part of the partnership’s Veterans Build project.
“Our goal is for the money to stay in Hammond,” said Whitworth, whose East Chicago-based company ADP Safety also contributes to the Hessville Eagle Riders’ fundraising efforts.
The two-bedroom home on Tennessee Avenue would be best for smaller veteran family such as a couple with one child or a single parent with children of the same gender, said Lisa Benko, Habitat’s director of development and community relations.
Part of Habitat’s requirement is that the qualified homeowner put in 300 sweat equity hours either through actual work on the home or at Habitat’s ReStore in Calumet Township. Friends and family can help with half of that requirement. For those who are disabled, accommodations will be made.
Candidates must also show a need for adequate housing and also have the ability to pay the interest free mortgage.