The Veterans Association Food Bank (VAFB) is supporting former Canadian Forces through the power of sports. It is hosting its 2nd annual Charity Golf Tournament at Edmonton Garrison Memorial Golf & Curling Club on Friday, August 25.
“We have a lot of homeless veterans that people don’t know about. We’ve taken eight veterans off the streets in the last few months. A lot of veterans today are from Afghanistan. They’re in their late 20s and early 30s. Many are injured mentally, physically or both and they can’t navigate Veterans Affairs with all the paperwork. We have a team that helps veterans with their claims,” said John Kennedy, tournament coordinator.
Last year’s inaugural tournament on the 18-hold course hosted 116 golfers in teams of four who raised $23,000. Kennedy hopes with this year’s increased visibility, the tournament will surpass that amount.
There are 11,000 veterans in Alberta and Kennedy is one of them. He completed a tour of Cyprus and Rwanda. In Rwanda, the Sargent was in charge of a Disaster Assistance Response Team supplying a field hospital with power and water. One of the team’s resourceful life-saving devices was an emergency baby incubator built from scrounged parts to look like a box with a warming lightbulb inside.
Like many veterans, the return to civilian life was not a smooth transition. Upon retirement, Kennedy waited four years before his tinnitus claim was approved, and another four years before a claim for bruxism was approved. Bruxism is the grinding of teeth brought on by depression, deep anxiety, PTSD and suicidal thoughts.
Currently, his work at VAFB puts him in contact with about 150 active clients who require food support every month.
“We provide food every month, but also depending on the size of the family, we also give them a gift card that can range from $150 to $250. Right now, we’re spending $35,000 per month on gift cards.”
In addition to supplying food, the non-profit charity offers peer support programs, coffee days for socializing and emergency funds for those struggling financially.
“If they need money for lights or gas, we go through their financials with them and help pay rent and bills.”
While most veterans have a roof over their heads, some reject the help that is offered.
“They don’t want help. They don’t trust the government. They don’t trust us.”
VAFB was initially started in Calgary after the city’s Legion food bank closed. Marie Blackburn, the daughter of a Korean War veteran, lost her job when the food bank closed. Her determination to support veterans led to the creation of VAFB, an agency that provides advocacy, outreach and emergency assistance for both veterans and former RCMP officers.
The golf tournament is a major fundraiser with a registration fee of $135 per person. The fee also includes a barbecue and prizes for participants.
“If you don’t play golf, but would like to sponsor a veteran, that’s welcome. Last year we had 15 veterans who couldn’t afford to golf and their fee was sponsored by others.”
Golfers can register online at https://birdease.com/VAFBGolfEdm2023. For mor information call Kennedy at 587-785-7017.
Food and monetary donations are welcome at VAFB located at 18504 – 111 Avenue. The food bank is open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.