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.

Amanda Frelka-Bruch and husband, Jason

“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.

Amanda and Jason load a cart with kits.

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.

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14 Comments

  1. Hans Petersen January 17, 2021 at 5:55 am

    George…there is a VA Clinic in Rome…30 Chateau Drive Southeast
    Rome, GA 30161-7201 – 404-329-2222
    The bags are distributed to Vets by the VA Voluntary Service and other
    hospital offices. If there is not a Volunteer at the Rome clinic, (they are
    a satellite of VA Atlanta) just call Atlanta and the Voluntary office there
    will help you. (Just Google VA Atlanta) . Thanks for offering to help. HP

  2. Lucy Fuhrmann January 16, 2021 at 9:28 pm

    I would love to help!

  3. Kate Whitley January 16, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    I will never understand why our government doesn’t do more to help our veterans. Joining the military changes the trajectory of our entire lives even when we only serve for four years. A LOT happens during the youngest years of our adult lives.

  4. Tomas Burriel January 15, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    I’m a Viet Nam vet and I’m homeless myself but I do have a tent that my wife & I live in we are saving our money to buy a home for our self’s my credit good and by the end of this year we will have enough to buy our home God Bless you all for helping the ones that have less than I do I’m bless to have a good woman to help me keep up the good work & Bless you for caring !!!!

  5. Roxanne Gay Hazelton January 15, 2021 at 4:37 am

    How can I get involved? I am a Disabled Veteran female, in my town in Greenville SC I see Veterans sleeping on the sidewalks in our downtown area. What can I do for them.
    Sometimes I give them money to eat.
    Would love to get involved!
    How can I help?

    Sgt. Roxanne Hazelton

  6. William Shaffer January 15, 2021 at 2:55 am

    Thank you for your service to us homeless vets we do appreciate it more than you know. I just got my VASH and moved into my apartment on Thanksgiving day. I can say first hand that getting a voucher takes work and you have to stay on top of it but it is possible. Very possible. I would also like to let you all know about someone who has helped me and so many more this person is one amazing women and I’m not trying to cut Mrs.Frelka-Bruch sorry in anyway. But I would like to let ppl know about Retired First Sergeant Kennedy here in the Portland area she started her own non profit in Clackamas county helping all veterans no matter their discharge get housing and employment. Ft. Kennedy is the name of her non profit and it is a safe place for all veterans who are in need. She has amazingly kept the doors open thru this pandemic how I don’t know but she has. With out Ft.Kennedy I don’t believe i would be in my own place rite now. It is not only what she has done but she gave me the hope and support to keep trying and to keep going. I only started going to the center after the pandemic started so I don’t know how it was before but from what I can tell it was and still is the best place to go when you have no where else to turn. I was about to that point again in my life rite before I meet First Sergeant. I was tired, tired of life tired of living in the street being looked at like I was worthless. I felt worthless and honestly I was giving up. I was suicidal I wouldn’t I couldn’t say that back in August of 2020 but I can and am saying it now. Anyways long story but back to my point thank you to all who help us homeless vets and from the bottom of my heart thank you First Sergeant you saved my life and I know you have saved countless others. I just wanted ppl to know about this amazing person as well. I again thank Mrs. Frelka-Bruch for her service as well and want trying to cut her short I just wanted ppl to know my story and the amazing person who helped me. She definitely rose not get enough credit for what and who she is. Thank you for being you Top. I hope you some hope come across this some day sooner than later and hope you finally get all the help you need to continue helping us the way you do..

  7. Brian Sparks January 14, 2021 at 8:46 pm

    I feel so touched by this ,I was wondering how I could start something like this, in North Carolina?Any suggestions would and will be appreciated. I’m a veteran and see lots of homeless in my area.I font have money to give ,but really want to help.Please let me know ?I just want to give or help,but don’t have any resources.

    • chip desimone January 17, 2021 at 3:19 pm

      THANKS WILLIAM!!!! I am a female Vet of Post Vietnam Veteran, and would like to warn all Vets to stay away from 2 VA”s 1. East Orange VA in NJ. 2. Wilsks- Barre PA. EO destroyed all of my family mother, 2 brothers and even my niece and her toddler. The discrimination against all women Vets is Horrific! When I lived in NJ I continually asked all forms of Vet assistance for job info, and Va counsling, even though the EO VA was in a horrible area filled with drugs and burnt out building from the riots in the 60’s. I tried to explain how terrible the Army was against women and those fake “Vet Centers” only served men in-country Vietnam even the nurses’s I knew who were in-country were considered “non-combatants” and they did not serve them, even though their area was regularly rocketed. EO got even by sending letters to mother saying horrific character assalting names even “diagnosis” without seeing any doctor since they did not want to give a service connection to it. I now have no family and am always alone on all holidays as well as having now “no next of kin” I finally had to dehumanize my self to go to the PA VA and they have a MST guy; yea, a guy, who finally gave me a PTSD from the many sexual assalt exp.I had; now that MST is now a Service Connection, well I asked for a over the counter meds that I wanted on record, so he sent me to a women shrink and only once can you ask for the meds she was really angry that I got the PTSD and was going through her blackberry looking for an earlier diasgnosis, she said she didnt believe there was any sexual assalt in any Service and waved her hands in my face, she was angry that he gave me the PTSD as that is the 1st step for the larger service connection as she and others were getting “Bonus Checks” for denying Vets. 2x the “MST “counslerer called me several times on phone unannounced and unsolicited by claiming terrible acts this is to possibly send a swat team as it happened in another county and killed an younger Vet who possibly served in Irag. I have the UI now even though I live in a small trailer I cant even get a dog, even though I own it just you try getting a plummer or electrician in this rural area, because of the accusations I am always alone on christmas and now have no “next of kin” found that out when I had to use all of my credit cards to find a specialist to laser my stage 2 breast cancer, and before that I got totaled by some 20 year old crack head on the NY side of the river. Thanks to all our Brother and Sister Vets!!!!

  8. George W Simpson January 12, 2021 at 7:40 pm

    How do you identify, find vets in need? Who can we leave help bags with to get them in the vets hands?
    Is there a coordinator for the State of Georgia, for the city of Rome, GA ?

  9. Ronald A Larsen January 12, 2021 at 7:05 pm

    I feel it an absolute atrocity that with the number of Millionaires and Billionaires in our Country, that there should be any Homeless People in our Country. Especially when they are Veterans who fought for this Country to protect these very same Millionaires and Billionaires, and to keep the Freedoms and Liberties that God gave to us to enjoy the comforts that they and we enjoy. I am a Veteran myself. I served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam in the year 1972. These Veterans are my Brothers, and it hurts me to my heart to see them this way, Before you say well why don’t you help. I will only say, that is between me and God. My prayer is that all the Homeless people will be afforded a Home. Never again to have to sleep on a sidewalk, or carry everything they have in a plastic bag or grocery cart.

  10. Earl Conway Driver January 12, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    Awesome!

  11. Agnes E. Nilsen January 12, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    I can sympathize with this story. My husband is 85 and a Korean War Vet. In 2010 and 2011 we lived in or car, because no one would rent to a Veteran in Missoula MT. It was expensive as well. Even the VFW and American Legion, both of who he was a Member, only offered to buy him a beer, nothing else. I tried to get us a VASH Voucher, even the local VA Clinic claimed to know nothing. I finally called Washington DC VA National and they put me in touch with an Office in Idaho and North Dakota who kept in touch for 3 months, and was appaled Montana would not help. They finally got a man in Helena MT named Mark Annas and he helped us get a Voucher. It still took 2 months to get a place 60 miles out of town because they would not rent to us in Missoula, they stated VASH was a scam. So yes, The VA is very laxed about helping our Veterans. God Bless you for what you are doing.

  12. John Hadder January 12, 2021 at 11:48 am

    Amanda Frelka-Bruch should start a national program with the financial assistance of the VA. Distribution centers could be created throughout the country. Her role would be to package and distribute these Essential packages to the distribution centers. It could become a full-time position with a national reach and national impact.

    • Maxine Williams January 16, 2021 at 11:42 pm

      I just started a non-profit in Houston TX and I am new to this but I am trying to assist Veterans, I was in the hospital and the VA hospital and they treat veterans as if we were prisoners. It was from that I started my non-profit. I am trying to see how to get some funding to actually be able to do some other the things I see needed for homeless veterans. There are a lot of big non-profits and they do wonderful jobs for the veterans but there are still some that doesn’t touch the ones who suffer with mental health issues and the ones that need people to advocate for them. The ones that people have them on the street while they enjoying their disability check. So I need to know who I can talk to so that my non profit can get some funding, Homeless veterans need flip phones with minutes, they need so much to go back and forth to the va hospital . And to stay safe while being homeless. Mental Health is a disease and it need to be treated as such. I just need anyone who can point me in the right direction. I am a vet and I want to help vets. I have never been homeless and I have always had a great career since I left the military, I have used my educational benefits and had a great career, so I want to help veterans.

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