Milford’s community effort helps homeless veterans

MILFORD — A snowball of kindness grew over the summer when the city of Milford came together to support local homeless veterans.

“Interestingly enough, it started out when someone tagged me in a meme on Facebook that said to pack an old purse, or unused purse, that you have and put it in your car and give it to someone who is homeless when you see them,” said state Rep. Bryan Shupe.

“[You could] pack it with hygiene products, toothpaste and that sort of thing,” he explained. “And I thought, sure I’ll share it. It’s a good message. But then my second thought immediately was — how many people are going to, you know, share this but not actually do anything? Not really pack a purse or not even care once they share that meme.”

With his hometown community in mind, Rep. Shupe said he knew they could do better than simply sharing the post over and over again on Facebook with little to no action. He immediately thought of the Home of the Brave, a nonprofit organization in Milford that works to help veterans and their children get back on their feet after homelessness.

“We spend so much time on social media, sharing and liking things that are positive thoughts, but we can transform those positive thoughts into positive actions for our community to really have a vibrant community that we live in,” Rep. Shupe said.
The idea spurred the support of local businesses, other organizations and the community alike.

“They do some great things with homeless veterans,” he said. “It kind of snowballed from there.”

Fur-Baby Boutique, owned by Rep. Shupe and his family, and a slew of others including Dolce Bakery and Coffee Shop, Tatiana Akinfieva Dance Academy, Planet Fitness, Eagle 97.7, Milford Police Department and Milford Public Library pitched in space for large boxes during July and August.

The boxes would soon fill with old or unused purses, each also filled with hygiene items. More than 200 purses were collected by the end of the drive.
“People just, there was so much stuff,” Rep. Shupe said. “We had so many supplies that they said it would probably last both of their homes for about a year. We met at the library afterward and separated the purse contents for three hours.”

From there, Hertrich filled a cargo van with the supplies and helped deliver them to the Home of the Brave just off of Rt. 1.

Home of the Brave Executive Director Jessica Finan said the donations will, in fact, help supply the homes with hygiene products for about a year at no cost to the organization, helping make a dent in the care for approximately 500 homeless veterans found across the state of Delaware on any given night. Between their two facilities, Home of the Brave serves approximately 60 men, 30 woman and 10 children throughout the year.
“Home of the Brave seeks to house them and help with finding them permanent supportive housing,” she said. “[The donations] will help with self-esteem, specifically for the females, to have nice, gently used handbags and plenty of hygiene products, as well.”
For Rep. Shupe and those who helped provide for the veterans at Home of the Brave, the impact is great.
“It was really kind of cool to make it from something that was online to people actually showing up and doing it. That really meant a lot to me and it really meant a lot to the other community members who were donating, as well,” Rep Shupe said. “I want to do stuff that Evelyn and eventually Theodore gets to see,” he added. “I think right now, and I won’t be the first one to admit that I do this all the time, I think our culture, we get really self-absorbed in what we need and what’s wrong with us. We also get really down on ourselves. There can really be a spur, a change, in our thinking in the way to make a better community and the way to have a fulfilled life is through community service and giving back to the community that raised you.”

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