The Portage Exchange Club had an inspiring and exciting meeting on Wednesday, November 23. President Brad Clapp reported on the results of the 11/11@7 project. The Club had invited local pizza places to help raise money for homeless veterans by donating a portion of their pizza sales between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Veterans Day.
This project was held in conjunction with the National Exchange Clubs and Veterans Matter programs that partnered to host a project called “Raising Dough for Our Vets."
The monies raised were earmarked to provide deposits needed to obtain housing for homeless vets across the state and in this region. Once homeless vets are housed, there are programs through the VA to help with economic and other needs. However, each veteran needs his or her own down payment, which averages $750, an impossible sum for most.
Exchange Clubs across the nation have partnered with Veterans Matter to help raise the money for the down payments. Indiana has housed nearly 140 veterans so far. Celebrity activists like John (Cougar) Mellencamp have also helped raise awareness and moneu for this initiative.
In Portage, the participating restaurants were, Cappo’s, Gelsosomo’s Domino’s, Bam Pizza, Salvora’s and Santini's.
Besides the money raised by the pizza sales in Portage, each participating business had a small blue and gold house (the colors of Exchange Club) for patrons to drop in donations. Club member, Peggy Berbesque, created the houses. Clapp reported that the project raised $921 through sales and donations. Club member and local businessman, Al Bumbales, of Portage Ace Hardware donated another $200. The club added money set aside for the project to bring the total to $1500. This is enough to help two veterans.
However, Clapp added that Jordan Reses Company, a national distributor of medical equipment and supplies to federal government agencies principally the Veterans Administration, is matching all monies raised. That means four homeless vets will now have a down payment.
“It may not sound like much to help four vets out of the tens of thousands who need help,” Clapp said, “but for the four who we help, it means everything. The reality that any veteran is homeless, let alone nearly 50,000 of them, is a stain on our nation’s honor. But we don’t have to be powerless: working together, we can make a difference."
Once a year, Exchange Clubs have a “One Nation under God” recognition. The guest speaker for the Portage meeting was the Reverend Benjamin Ahlersmeyer, pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Portage.
Pastor Ahlersmeyer told the members, “As I begin to break this phrase down, I could start with the word ‘one.’ One nation, one people, one republic, one country. If this word is meant to imply unity then we are already making assumptions. As I view the world today, the landscape of society I do not see us as one. We are not in step. We are not in line. We are deeply divided, paying the sins of our fathers and forefathers.”
After giving examples of this division, he continued, “Yet, America, this great experiment that we are, is joined under common law, a bill of rights, a declaration of independence, an understanding that all men are created equal. We are one but we are different. It’s beautiful and it is frustrating. We are one but we have our differences. We don’t share backgrounds and ethnicities. We don’t all share the same zip codes or education. We are one nation but that picture is a mosaic of creeds, ethnicities, genders, opinions, socioeconomic statuses, and families of origin. We are one nation. We are an unruly, disagreeable nation but we are still indeed a nation.”
He ended with the inspiring message, “Let’s use this truthful phrase 'One Nation Under God' as a call to action, a motivating factor to change ourselves, our communities, our nation to acknowledge the God they are under and to rejoice in the gospel that is freely given to us all. As One Nation Under God, we are called to come back to Him and this is the perfect time and place to shake free of our apathy and move the gospel back into our free land.”