For veterans like Michael Crum, the call of duty to serve others does not end when he exchanges his uniform for street clothes. Crum served four years in the Marine Corps from 1997-2001 and is a UW-Green Bay graduate student in the Social Work Collaborative M.S.W. program.
In his Advanced Social Welfare Policy Analysis class, students are required to do a community engagement project.
Crum started the project, “Operation Ready Aim Comfort,” to help fill 200 bags for homeless veterans so they can receive basic necessities.
While doing research, he contacted the Outagamie Veterans Office to learn more about issues affecting veterans in the area. He found that homelessness is a rising issue in the veterans’ community.
As a Marine veteran, Crum has lived the struggle that veterans face. “Once the opportunity presented itself to give back to other veterans I jumped at the chance,” he said.
“I just moved back to the area in May and I quickly fell into a situation where I struggled with finding a job,” he explained. “I had no income and was struggling to get back on my feet. The Boot Campaign organization and the Fox Cities Veterans Council were able to provide me relief until I was able to find a job.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.9 percent of veterans were unemployed as of October 2013.
“I think this is unacceptable,” Crum said. “If I am able to give back and provide relief to other veterans, then I will shake whatever tree and ruffle whatever feathers I have to, to give back to veterans who deserve better.”
The UW-Green Bay Phoenix Bookstore and UW-Oshkosh partnered to donate 100 drawstring bags for donations. The bags will be filled with necessities such as toiletries, clothes, blankets and easy to carry food items.
Crum stresses that every donation is important and every bag will mean a lot to each recipient.
“When you hand someone something they can’t afford or haven’t had in awhile, it makes you feel beyond good knowing you helped. It also makes you appreciate the things you do have,” Crum said.
Organizations from the Green Bay, Oshkosh, Appleton and Fond du Lac areas joined together starting Nov. 11 to bring awareness about the homeless population and to fill the 200 bags with donations by Dec. 13.
“There is definitely a need for it in our area,” said Sandra Meyer, Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) Veterans Employment specialist at the Center for Veteran Issues and a 2011 UW-Green Bay grad. “I feel fortunate that we will be able to provide homeless veterans with some of those necessities.”
The comfort bags will be taken to the various shelters throughout the Fox Cities, Oshkosh and Green Bay areas, and other bags will be donated to the Veterans Court and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“This project is very humbling,” Crum said. “Being a veteran, it’s unfortunate to know that other veterans are in situations where they have to live in transitional housing, shelters or on the streets. I am very impressed with the level of support I have received so far.
Crum encourages everyone to “get involved and advocate for the things you are passionate about. You can accomplish so much by just speaking up and using your voice. I recently heard a quote that said, ‘I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I am somebody.’”
Crum welcomes comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Collection sites are located at UW-Green Bay at the Veterans Office in Student Services, the Phoenix Bookstore, or outside of the Social Work office. Monetary donations can be sent to Community First Credit Union, Operation Ready Aim Comfort, P.O. Box 1487, Appleton WI, 54912.
— Story and photos by Cheyenne Makinia, student intern, Marketing and University Communication