Wichita event raises money, goods for veterans in need

On the type of cold, windy day that needy military veterans and their families could have used a new coat or warm socks, an event was held just for them.

It was the third annual RED Day — standing for Renew, Energize and Donate — Saturday on the grounds of the Robert J. Dole VA Hospital in Wichita.

The event aimed to highlight the needs of Kansas veterans, and to raise money and collect clothing and other items for those who are struggling.

Organizers said 350 veterans and their families are homeless in the Wichita area.

Two large storage pods outside the hospital slowly filled with donated items as people drove onto the grounds.

"We want to fill the pods. We need this stuff," said Penny Johnson, team leader of Keller Williams Realty Signature Partners, which hosted the event with the center.

About 30 American Legion Riders rode into the area at 9 a.m. to kick it off.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer praised veterans and read a proclamation from the city honoring the event.

U.S Rep. Mike Pompeo, a representative from U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran's office, center director Tom Sanders, and KAKE's Larry Hatteberg also spoke.

Pompeo said members of Congress, who have spent four months fighting over the budget, "get it" when it comes to helping veterans.

"As we're talking about where we can spend less money ... we all know we've got to honor our commitment to our veterans," he said.

But, he said, there are gaps where veterans need help from volunteers.

"The federal government cannot possibly meet the spiritual needs and all the things our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines need when they leave the service," Pompeo said.

The day also included music from four bands and children's entertainment.

Former shuttle astronaut Sam Gemar signed autographs.

Johnson said donations may be made all next week at the Keller Williams office, 1635 N. Waterfront Parkway, in the Adams Jones law firm.

Items most needed are cleaning supplies, new or gently worn men's, women's and children's clothing, and cash.

Organizers hope to purchase gift cards and bus passes for veterans, and to raise $56,000 for a handicapped-accessible van for the center's Transitional Living Center.