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Totes of Hope brings TLC to homeless vets

There are estimated to be between 120, 000 and 200,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. today. A local insurance agent is teaming up with the American Red Cross and their “Totes of Hope” program to help show these vets they have not been forgotten by the citizens of the nation they have served.

“The Red Cross came to one of our last State Farm Agency meetings and our Community that Cares Director gave us the information about Totes of Hope,” says Abbie Gardner Ballew.

“These are personal care kits with items that homeless vets can use. Once they are collected and assembled in a backpack or tote bag, the totes are distributed to veterans’ hospitals and outreach programs. Each agency was challenged to make ten bags. I am hoping we will get more than that!”

Personal hygiene items such as deodorant, soap, shaving cream, toothpaste and other items are being included in the care kits for the homeless veterans. Other items requested include disinfectant wipes, baby wipes, hand sanitizer,  hair comb, magazines or books, travel size shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and toothbrushes, rain ponchos, socks, shower shoes or flip flops, crossword puzzle books, restaurant gift cards, phone cards, drawstring bags or backpacks.

This program is taking the American Red Cross back to its roots, Ballew explains.

“When I spoke with our local ARC rep, Hunter Smart, he told me details on the veterans’ services that the Red Cross does. Something that he said really stood out to me,” Ballew says.

“Hunter said that this is a ‘Service to the Armed Forces (SAF)’ of the American Red Cross, which is the founding line that started the American Red Cross. Most people think of ‘Floods and Blood’ when they think of the American Red Cross, but they stared right here, with our armed forces.”

Ballew is asking for donated items to be dropped off at her State Farm office located at 840 Fort Dale Road adjacent to Gardner Eye Clinic. A complete list of requested items for donation to Totes of Hope can also be obtained there.

“We will present what we’ve collected to the Red Cross on June 6 at our next meeting, but there is no true ‘deadline,’” says Ballew.

“We can continue to collect as long as we can. These totes get in the hands of those who have served our country. And that is what makes us great—showing them we do care about and appreciate them.”

Totes of Hope donated locally will go directly to the VA in Monroeville, just a stone’s throw away.

For more information, contact Abbie Ballew’s State Farm offices at 382-6561.