By Ana Allen, PRMCJune 16, 2014
On the dawn of the Army's 239th Birthday, Oahu area Soldiers, along with community partners rolled up their sleeves to serve the island's most needy neighbors -- Hawaii's homeless.
Tripler Army Medical Center's Chaplain Ministry department hosted the Aloha Service Fair, a free human services event for the homeless, in collaboration with Schofield Barracks Health Clinic and community partners, Project DATE and Hawaii Vet 2 Vet on Saturday, June 14, 2014.
During the daylong event, more than 100 volunteers reached out to the less fortunate who call the cover of a bridge underpass just a few miles from Tripler home.
"We saw that there was a great need. The chaplains here at Tripler Army Medical Center just want to reach out and help these folks; let them know we love them, and care about them," said TAMC Chaplain, Capt. Mark Nikont. "Our Soldiers want to make a difference and this is a tremendous opportunity for us to step up and step out."
About 150 people in need came out for the event and received educational information as well as free food, clothing, and other essentials that even included a haircut, eye examinations and new prescription eye glasses.
Bret Gunn, a homeless parolee, stepped out of the hot sun and into the cool air conditioned Vision Van to wait his turn to get his eyes checked.
"It feels good to sit down," said Gun, plopping down with a sigh. "I went to go get a new prescription, but I have to pay cash and sometimes I don't have cash. It's nice to know that people care and people are paying attention," he said.
Mike Peacock, Co-founder of Vet 2 Vet, a non-profit aimed at reaching out to veterans who've lost their way, says showing this level of love to those who have so little will go a long way towards the healing process.
"I've been recovered homeless for more than five years now so I know from experience what they are going through and it gives me a unique perspective to try to help them," he said. "All of these volunteers are helping the homeless find their self-worth. If your hair is all matted and your clothes are ragged, how are you going to feel good about you, let alone anyone else?"
Staff Sgt. Alicia Cadena, TAMC volunteer says it's encouraging to see all of the volunteers and donations.
"Our Soldiers are truly living out the Army's values of service before self. Being healthcare professionals, we help people every day within the four walls of Tripler, but today is very special because we are able to come out here and help our neighbors and show them we are here for them too. We want to help," said Cadena.
This is the first time TAMC has hosted a homeless outreach of this magnitude but it won't be the last.
Hospital chaplains are already planning their next outreach focused solely on homeless veterans in the fall.