Catholic Charities Veteran Services helps veterans and their families who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness find stable housing and provides ongoing case management that includes financial planning, assistance applying for VA benefits, emergency assistance and more.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Community of Volunteers Help MANA House Veterans

Written by
Karynda Kearns, CEO Drive By Blessings Karynda Kearns, CEO Drive By Blessings

Sometimes our deepest hurts can lead to our greatest joy. In May 2015, the Kearns family went through a hard time that brought about a unique idea to help others.

“Our family was in deep pain,” said Karynda Kearns. “Overnight, the future of our family became dark, and we were afraid for our future.” Not wanting to allow their sadness to define their lives, Kearns suggested to her family that serving others would help lift them from their pain and sadness. But, it was her son’s, Owen and Aidan, who had a better idea-- they wanted to start a company that helped the homeless by giving them blessing bags. They named their company Drive By Blessings. aiden and owen

A Community Volunteers

Right away, they enlisted help from their neighborhood to create blessing bags, which were hygiene kits including food and water. In July of 2015, they had handed out more than 150 but still had 150 more left to distribute. They started looking for a shelter, knowing a shelter could spread the bags more quickly. Owen really wanted to help homeless veterans and their search brought them to the MANA House.

The Kearns immediately went down and delivered the blessing bags and other supplies to the MANA House and took a tour. “We instantly felt a connection,” said Kearns, “and asked what else we could do to help.”

Meals for MANA House

Drive By Blessings started providing meals the first Saturday of every month. Members from their community stepped up to provide the food and volunteer support.  

They also provided Christmas dinner. “It was a huge honor to provide Christmas dinner for the MANA House residents,” said Kearns. “We put a lot of time and effort into giving them the best Christmas dinner they'd ever had. It was certainly the best Christmas for our family and many of the volunteers.”

In this last month, Drive By Blessings has brought 110 volunteers, both adults and children, to serve meals at the MANA House.

“Coming here so often and meeting new people, we developed a passion to share the MANA House story. Our mission is to connect children and families with opportunities to serve those who have served us first,” said Kearns.

Kearns learned that the MANA House veterans had to rely on their own resources or eat out of the pantry for Sunday dinners. It became another goal for Drive By Blessings to fill as many Sundays as possible with meals. “We feel like our veterans have done enough for us, and our country. And they deserve to be eating well,” said Kearns. Drive By Blessings doesn’t just serve a meal, all volunteers are encouraged to sit down and get to know the residents. Spending time engaging in conversation is equally as important to them as the food they serve.

christmas dinner mana house

Homeless Veterans Get a Fresh Start

Kearns, along with her volunteers, develop lasting relationships with the residents.  In November, after a veteran had graduated the program and moved out, he invited Kearns to see his new home. He was proud of his apartment, but Kearns didn't like that he was sleeping on a pile of blankets and didn’t have a proper bed, furniture or household items.

She put out a request on social media and help came from friends and strangers in her neighborhood. Drive By Blessings was able to give that veteran what he needed to no longer have to sleep on the floor.

Now, in addition to meals, Drive By Blessings helps move two to three veterans into apartments every month. They collect furniture, household items and even a few groceries and cleaning supplies, so that veterans who move out of MANA House can have a more positive start to the life they've worked so hard to obtain.

"This has been one of the greatest privileges for me,” said Kearns.  “This experience has been a healing experience for us.”

You can be a part of the many volunteers helping the MANA House. Learn more about MANA House or become a volunteer today! You can also become a monthly giver and provide ongoing support to homeless veterans in Phoenix.

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