BRUSH VALLEY — During his four years of active duty as a young Marine in the late 1960s, Andrew Davis lived in places such as Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
None, however, compared to where he found himself later in life.
When his significant other passed away a few years ago, Davis, 65, a Pittsburgh native, had to find somewhere to live since his name hadn’t been on her lease.
He did, but the home was rife with drugs and crime.
“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he said. “It got to the point where I just had to get out of the situation — and that’s when I became homeless.”
For Della Jean Manning, a member of Brush Valley Chapel, such situations are a call to action.
“When they signed up to go to the military, they didn’t have these issues,” she said of veterans who find themselves on the streets or in shelters.
Members of Manning’s church, plus two others in the Brush Valley area — Lutheran Chapel and Calvary United Methodist Church — endeavor to help those veterans in anyway they can.
They will be doing just that with a donation drive before the Michael W. Smith concert at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex on Sunday. The drive will begin around 5 p.m. A table will be set up in the lobby.
All donations will go to the Tomorrow’s Hope transitional housing facility for veterans.
Until Wednesday, Davis called the veterans’ housing center in Coalport, Clearfield County, home.
Upon graduating from the program, he moved into an apartment not far from the facility.
He credits those in the program with making such a move possible.
“They anticipated my needs, dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s and made everything real smooth for me,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Davis’ stay at Tomorrow’s Hope lasted about eight months. He had been invited to live there, with help from the Department of Veterans Affairs, when he was at a homeless shelter in Pittsburgh.
At Tomorrow’s Hope, he connected with caseworkers. He gained access to his pensions from the Marines and the carpenter’s union. He got a primary care physician. And, ultimately, he found a place to call his own.
“It was one of the better moves in my life,” he said. “Tomorrow’s Hope is God’s gift to veterans. Tomorrow’s Hope will give you hope when you have no hope.”
That hope can come in any form and from nearly any source. Many of Sunday’s donations for Tomorrow’s Hope — which can include clothing items, toiletries and pantry goods — will be distributed as gifts at a pizza party before Christmas, according to Manning.
“It helps them to deal with some of these issues, because they don’t feel they’ve been forgotten and shoved in a corner,” she said.
The donations, she added, go a long way toward helping when veterans transition into new jobs and housing.
If you’re looking to donate to Tomorrow’s Hope on Sunday, don’t hesitate to bring items in a duffel bag or a suitcase, Manning said. That way, when they leave the facility, veterans have something to carry their belongings in.
In addition, she said to be sure all clothing donations are new or are in lightly used condition.
“We make sure it’s something we would give to our own family,” she said.
Tomorrow’s Hope accepted its first residents in 2009, according to CEO Mike Millward.
The housing facility includes two bunks, a recreational area and a cafeteria.
Residents come from all branches of the service and have served during various wars and conflicts. A 91-year-old veteran even lives there, Manning said.
Between 30 and 40 veterans stay at the facility at any given time. Millward expects the number of those passing through the program this year to approach 400. At least eight of them have been from Indiana County.
“Each one has their own story,” he said. “We’ve had so many miracles and blessings here, it’s just astounding.”
Among those, he counts the three Brush Valley-area churches.
“The key, what makes us blessed, is we have all these team players that help us,” he said.
He describes the churches’ efforts as “awesome.”
“We’re honored, we’re humbled and we’re so glad they decided to adopt us,” he said. “They’re really wonderful, giving people.”
When: Begins at 5 p.m. Sunday (before 8 p.m. Michael W. Smith concert)
Where: Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Center, 711 Pratt Drive, White Township
For more information: (814) 672-5485
To donate at Sunday’s drive, go to the lobby at the KCAC, where Manning and fellow volunteers will have a table set up. They ask that items be in new or lightly used condition.
• Laundry detergent
• Twin-sized sheets
• Pillow cases
• Towels and washcloths
• Colored handkerchiefs and scarves
• Nail clippers and emery boards
• Thermo coffee cups
• Small flashlights, batteries
• Sweat pants and sweat shirts (sizes large to XXL)
• Winter outerwear
• New or gently used clothing
• Used suitcases and duffle bags
More information on Tomorrow’s Hope, visit www.tomorrowshopepa.org.
By the numbers
• More than 62,000 veterans are homeless on any given night
• Close to 13 percent of the homeless population are veterans
• Almost half of all homeless veterans served in Vietnam
• Fifty percent of homeless veterans face serious mental illness
• Nearly 70 percent struggle with substance abuse
Statistics courtesy of the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to providing resources, technical assistance and advocacy for agencies that work with veterans.
For more information, visit www.nchv.org.