It was a busy scene at the Fishtown Recreation Center this weekend as dozens of people gathered at this month’s Code: Red White and Blue event. By midmorning, more than 100 people had gathered at the center located on the 1200 block of Montgomery Avenue. Volunteers handed out toiletries, clothing and food. Local nonprofit group Support Homeless Veterans organized the event. Founder and president Cara Colantuono, 26, called the event “one of our best ever.”
Volunteers in gray Support Homeless Veterans sweatshirts distributed clothing from the piles of donated shirts, pants and jackets. A local motorcycle group arrived clad in leather
jackets bearing military patches. Veterans mingled and helped themselves to cookies and coffee in the lobby. Other volunteers signed veterans up for free haircuts.
Support Homeless Veterans volunteer and Army veteran Chris Cichonski says veterans don’t have to be homeless to receive support. “Any veteran in need, really, if you’re having a hard time, we’re always taking any vets that need help,” Cichonksi said.
Veterans listened intently as speakers gave financial advice. Experts discussed credit, saving and investing. Army veteran
Melvin Honesty said he hopes the skills he learned today will help him. “My goal now is to get my own place and work on buying a place,” he said. When asked how the events have helped him, he replied, “Financially, mentally and emotionally.”
Founder Cara Colantuono is a Temple University graduate and a licensed social worker. She said the organization receives plenty of help from its veteran street teams. “A veteran street team is a group of veterans that represent Support Homeless Veterans and they do a lot of the volunteer work,” Colantuono explained. She said the street team does community service work and organized events. “I like to think it’s a group of brothers that support each other and support the cause and mission of Support Homeless Veterans,” Colantuono said.
Colantuono is not a veteran herself, but explained why this cause is
important to her. “My uncle Victor was a combat Vietnam vet that had issues in his life,” she said. After graduating from Temple University with a master’s degree in social work, she focused on working with veterans. “I appreciate my freedom a lot. If you’re American, you should care about your veterans,” she said.
The events are held on the third Saturday of every month. The organization is always accepting donations. Dates and information are available at www.supporthomelessveterans.org and Facebook.com/supporthomelessveterans.