Years ago, Cheryl Blake's father served in World War II and her three brothers deployed with their units to Vietnam.
Today, Blake and members of the Hopkinsville Elks Lodge 545 are giving back to veterans.
"We wouldn't be America without our veterans," Blake said. "They fought for us, for our freedoms, as well as other nations around the world. There are so many that died for our nation. It's important to say 'I appreciate your service' when you see a veteran.' "
Blake, who is an Elks trustee, is spearheading several charitable projects to help the Pennyroyal Veterans Center. The 50-bed facility for male veterans is located at 506 Boales St. The center opened in February 2012.
"All of them are homeless, that's why they're here," said Eugene Braxton, lead veteran support specialist at the center. "A lot of people in Hopkinsville don't even know we're here."
Veterans at the center receive three meals each day in addition to being provided clothes and toiletries. The Elks provide supplementary supplies for them during and after their stay at the center.
As temperatures drop to freezing, the Elks have started a coat drive for veterans at the center.
"There's so many of them coming in there that don't have anything but a very light jacket," Blake said. "It's winter. Winter is really coming at us. It's been freezing at night a lot. It's going to get worse."
Blake said the center can accept used, dry-cleaned winter coats or donations toward purchasing a coat.
"I'll help (the community) with the logistics -- whatever they need," Blake said.
If individuals, businesses or organizations are interested in donating money to the coat drive, checks may be sent to the center directly. For more information about the center or how to make donations to help, visit https://pennyroyalcenter.org/ or call 270-887-5099.
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"Getting a coat or anything is like a child is born," Braxton said.
In addition to the coat drive, the Elks annual veterans breakfast was served this morning at the Elks Lodge on South Main Street.
"We cook for 100 or so veterans," Blake said. "Then, everyone goes over to watch the parade."
Other outreach includes using a $2,000 Freedom Grant through Elks National Foundation to purchase personal hygiene items, socks, shoes and T-shirts for the veterans at the center, Blake said.
The Elks also provide supplies for Welcome Home kits for the veterans who leave the center and move on to live independently.
"As the veterans move out ... we buy them a microwave and dishes and silverware and pots and pans and cleaning supplies," Blake said. "I take donations from the community for other furniture -- recliners, couches, end tables, lamps."
Blake said an Elks Veterans Commission grant of $200 per month is spent on entertainment for the veterans, like taking them bowling.
Braxton said the year-round partnership with the Elks is appreciated and helps the veterans.
"It means a whole lot -- the world -- to some of them coming in," he said. "What they've got on their back is all they have."
Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.