VETS, Inc. raises over $9K with Boothbay barbecue

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 12:45pm

    The Boothbay barbecue had a little bit of everything Aug. 21 as over 300 attended the event which benefits Maine homeless veterans. It had great food including hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork and chili dogs. It had three hours of entertainment by the Maine jazz band “The Volunteers” which performs at events promoting veterans’ causes. It also had an array of family field games like badminton and corn hole. But most of all, the first VETS, Inc. barbecue fundraiser had spirit as everyone involved participated to help homeless veterans.

    VETS, Inc started over a year ago as a concept. Local veterans Ed Harmon, Arthur Richardson and John Hargreaves began the non-profit organization to show how a mobile shelter was a practical way of meeting homeless veterans’ short-term needs. Instead, their vision morphed into an action plan. VETS has created a network of sponsors who have joined them in constructing mini-temporary shelter vans and promoting veterans’ issues. VETS, Inc. has built nine temporary shelters, deployed four around the state, and is in the process of building eight more.

    For VETS, Inc. founder Ed Harmon, the first time event was a huge success raising over $9,000. “This is a generous community and we are very happy with the turnout. People told me they had a good time, and we are excited about holding it again, next year,” he said.
    The barbecue also had an army of volunteers who participated in making the three-hour event happen. Eddie Harmon of Monmouth is a veteran who served six years in the U.S. Navy. Eddie  Harmon was one of several volunteers who manned a barbecue, served food, played music, or organized the event. “I’m here to help out my dad. Long before he ever got involved with veterans’ issues he was my hero. I’m not surprised at all in how everything turned out. If you know my dad, you know he has a big heart and nothing he does is small,” he said.
    Vietnam veteran Chris Goodwin was one of several volunteers who served food. When he learned about the barbecue, he signed up to become part of an effort which was providing homeless veterans shelter. “VETS provides a safe environment for homeless vets. This in turn allows them to get a good night’s sleep. This doesn’t happen on the street where they’re always anxious and on guard. In addition, this provides them with hope and a better opportunity to figure out their future,” he said.
    One of the earliest barbecue attendees were the Ostrander family who live in Spain. The family has a summer home in Phippsburg and wanted to support veterans, enjoy a summer barbecue and partake in family field games. “We have a relative who is performing with the band so we came,” Betsy Ostrander said. “This is a great cause and a great way to spend the day.”
    Professional jazz group “The Volunteers” provided music. The group formed seven years ago after band director Lynn Kinney of Pownal heard the song “American Patrol” on the radio. The song was popularized by Big Band leader Glenn Miller. “I was driving and heard the song which reminded me of Al’s Diner in Mars Hill. I remember a friend of my parents named Eddie, a Medal of Honor recipient. One day he told of what happened in World War II when the song was playing on the juke box. This made me want to do something to honor all veterans,” she said.
    “The Volunteers” first played at an event associated with veteran Travis Mills and has since then performed about a dozen times a year for events supporting veterans. The American Riders, a Maine motorcycle club which supports veteran causes, was scheduled to appear. The club participated in the Maine Bicentennial Parade in Lewiston, but several motorcycles developed mechanical problems and couldn’t make it, according to Ed Harmon.