They say charity begins at home. For one woman, it began on the way to and from home.
Amanda Frelka-Bruch remembers seeing a homeless man living underneath the Marquette Interchange.
“My heart reached out to him,” she said. But it wasn’t just her heart. Before long, she was bringing the man lunch when she could and soon got to know him.
As they talked, she learned he was a Veteran who had served two tours in Afghanistan. She was flabbergasted: How could a man who served his country be abandoned to live on the street?
That led her to her sister, a nurse at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, who filled her in on some of the many reasons Veterans become homeless.
“What can I do to help?” she asked.
“Give them essentials,” her sister replied.
Helping the homeless for five years
That was five years ago. Frelka-Bruch (pictured above), her friends, family and co-workers have been helping homeless Veterans each year ever since.
This year, she donated nearly 100 kits that contain toiletries and other essentials for homeless Veterans. In all, the donations were worth about $3,500.
“Each kit was in a laundry bag and contained peanut butter, sewing kit, emergency blanket, emergency shelter, hand sanitizer, hat, toothbrush, pocket tissue, baby wipes, lotion, thermal socks, body wash, shampoo,” said Torrie Hutchison. Hutchinson is a Voluntary Services specialist with the Milwaukee VA.
The kits will go to Veterans in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Appleton, Racine and Waukesha.
The money and donations come from a variety of sources, Frelka-Bruch said, including her church, service clubs and her employer, MilliporeSigma, which matches the amount donated.
Encourages others to step up
Frelka-Bruch said she plans to keep up the annual donation drive “as long as God allows me to. I think they deserve so much more than they get.”
“For someone to love their country, to fight for freedom, we should fight for their freedom,” she said. “I think this country could do better.”
On her Facebook page, she encourages others to step up and help those in need, especially now.
“If you see something you feel you can change, be the difference. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Follow your calling. Don’t stop. Love with all your being, even in a pandemic.”
David Walter is a public affairs specialist with the Milwaukee VA.