Local woman provides for homeless Vets - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center

 

Local woman provides for homeless Vets

Kits for homeless Veterans

The Milwaukee VA recently received 96 laundry bags filled with essential items to be donated to homeless Veterans. This is the sixth year that Amanda Frelka-Bruch has organized and collected the kits.

By David Walter
Wednesday, December 30, 2020

They say charity begins at home. For one woman, it began on the way to and from home.

Amanda Frelka-Bruch, 33, remembers seeing a homeless man, living underneath the Marquette Interchange, during her commute.

“My heart reached out to him,” she said.

But it wasn’t just her heart. Before long, she was bringing the man lunch when she could and soon got to know him.

As they talked, she learned he was a Veteran who had served two tours in Afghanistan.

She was flabbergasted: How could a man who served his country be abandoned, to live on the street?

That led her to her sister, a nurse at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, who filled her in on some of the many reasons Veterans become homeless.

“What can I do to help?” she asked her sister.

“Give them essentials,” the sister said.

That was five years ago, and Amanda, her friends, family and co-workers, have been helping homeless Veterans each year ever since.

This year, Amanda donated nearly 100 kits filled with toiletries and other essentials to be given to homeless Veterans. In all, the donations were worth about $3,500, she said.

Homeless kits closeup

The kits come with a variety of items, including peanut butter, an emergency shelter and tissues.

“Each kit was in a laundry bag and contained peanut butter, sewing kit, emergency blanket, emergency shelter, hand sanitizer, hat, tooth brush, pocket tissue, baby wipes, lotion, thermal socks, body wash, shampoo,” said Torrie Hutchison, Voluntary Services specialist with the Milwaukee VA.

She said the kits will go to Veterans in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Appleton, Racine and Waukesha.

The money and donations come from a variety of sources, Amanda said, including her church, service clubs and her employer, MilliporeSigma, which matches the amount donated.

Amanda, of New Berlin, said she plans to keep up the annual donation drive “as long as God allows me to.”

“I think they deserve so much more than they get,” she said, noting that she tried to join the Army when she was 18 but broke her ankle after three days and was sent home.

“For someone to love their country, to fight for freedom, we should fight for their freedom,” she said. “I think this country could do better.”

On her Facebook page, Amanda encouraged others to step up and help those in need, especially this year, when the pandemic has ravaged so many lives.

“If you see something you feel you can change, be the difference!” she wrote.

“If there’s a will, there’s a way. Follow you calling. Don’t stop. Love with all your being – even in a pandemic!”

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