As American flags are removed from the graves of military veterans and fallen heroes in the weeks following Memorial Day, a set of keys was handed this week to an organization that helps veterans who are down on their luck.
The MANA House in downtown Phoenix regularly partners with the East Valley-based Stand Up and Stand Proud organization both regularly help to raise funds, collect clothes and provide food and water for homeless veterans. On Tuesday, the MANA house — thanks in part to Stand Up and Stand Proud — received the keys to a 1997 Ford F-150 pickup truck after Berge Ford in Mesa completed about $2,000 worth of repairs on it free of charge over the last two weeks.
Service department technicians at Berge Ford worked to repaired the previously immobile vehicle also with the help of a few local students — William Toy of the Universal Technological Institute in Scottsdale and Cody Johnson and Sam Sheffield of the Asset Program sponsored by the Ford Motor Co., which helps to train up and coming auto mechanics.
The truck had been donated to the MANA House about 18 months ago, but with all the repairs it needed such as electrical rewiring replaced, volunteers there could not afford to have it done, said MANA House program director Terry Araman.
But Tom Steinhagen, the executive director of Stand Up and Stand Proud, had a previous relationship with Berge Ford. He spent 72 hours living in a car at the Mesa dealership earlier this year in an attempt at raising awareness and collecting clothing, all while emulating what it’s like to be homeless, So Steinhagen was able to build on that and enlist the help of Berge Ford to fix the truck for MANA.
“We’re very grateful,” Araman said. “We were grateful to get the truck because we don’t have funding for cars, but when we saw the amount of repairs it needed, we couldn’t afford to have it fixed. This has been a huge gift to us from Berge Ford. Not only was this a great project, but the students contributed greatly.”
During Steinhagen’s “72 hours of homelessness,” he raised $16,000, $6,000 of which was donated to the MANA House, located at 755 E. Willetta St.
The home has 52 beds for homeless veterans striving to get back on their feet again. It’s not just a home for a handout; each resident at the home has a responsibility to earn his place.
“We’re trying to make it bigger and better,” Araman said.
The MANA House also has an outreach center at 233 S. 11th Ave. in Phoenix that helps homeless vets transition from the home back into mainstream life.
Araman and Steinhagen have said that there are about 12,000 homeless veterans in Maricopa County and that it’s important to always help them for the sacrifices they gave for our country.
Penny McDivitt, a graphic specialist in Berge Ford’s advertising department who helped to coordinate the “key handoff” to the MANA House on Tuesday, said she admires the sacrifices that Araman and Steinhagen have given to their respective organizations.
“You spend five minutes with these guys and you want to help the world like they are,” McDivitt said. “They’re incredible guys and have such a heart in helping homeless veterans. They work really hard in helping to get the homeless veterans back on their feet.”
The MANA House has 52 beds — room for 52 veterans who need a place to stay until they can get back on their feet again. It’s always full.
“Whenever a veteran leaves, we fill that spot right back up,” Araman said.
But for now, having more mobility with the F-150 truck is more than enough to rev up the group’s goal of being able to provide food, clothing, water and blankets to homeless vets around the Valley.
“It’s invaluable,” Araman said. “We’re very, very grateful.”
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