Toledo organization helping veterans around the US - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Toledo organization helping veterans around the US

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A Toledo based organization that helps veterans around the country is marking a major milestone. It's called Veterans Matter and it helps keep vets off the streets by getting them into their own homes. 

So far, the organization has helped 200 vets get into a home of their own. 65 of the veterans are right here in our community, but the homegrown program is having a nationwide impact.

This apartment has been home for Joe Markowski for about two years. "I was in the Marines from 1984-1990, and I was active duty from 1984-1988," he says. "I was honorably discharged. I had awards and citations. I am very proud of my service."

The former Marine and Waite High School graduate fell on hard times several years ago. After staying with a friend he ended up in a shelter. "It was imminent that I was going to be on the streets before long, but I was lucky enough to prevent that," he says.

That happened thanks in part to Veterans Matter. Ken Leslie heads up the non-profit organization. "Helping people is probably the most powerful thing there is," he says. "There are more than 57,000 vets on the streets of our nation, and many of them are abandoned and forgotten. Some of them are beaten, robbed and even killed on the streets. If that happened behind enemy lines, Americans would be outraged. Veterans Matter is our outrage."

The organization works with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. "The VA finds the vets and gets them ready for the housing. HUD finds the section 8 housing long term and we provide the deposit money which is often the last barrier preventing them from getting over the threshold."

There's a lot of star power helping make this happen. Celebrities like John Mellencamp and Mitch Albom help raise the money and more are expected to sign on in the next few weeks. Joe says the program has truly changed his world,"It's something that re-establishes your trust in mankind. It's one of those things where God puts two people together and it benefits both. That certainly has been the case for me."

In addition to Ohio, Veterans Matter also works in five other states including Texas, Michigan, Indiana and Washington. If you'd like to help raise money for the program, one way you can do that is a fundraiser this weekend. Coming Home is this Sunday from 2-7 at Forrester's on the River at The Docks in East Toledo. Tickets are $15 a person and you can buy them at the door.

If you can't attend the event, but still want to help, text the word vets to 41444 on your phone. So far they've raised about $200,000 to help vets pay the deposits on their housing.

Find out about other ways you can help at veteransmatter.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/veteransmatter.

Leslie says ProMedica and the Lucas County Veterans Services Commission have been vital to the work done here in the Toledo area.

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