Her personal mission to help homeless Veterans

Five years, hundreds of bags of essentials


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They say charity begins at home. For one woman, it began on the way to and from home.

Amanda Frelka-Bruch remembers seeing a homeless man living underneath the Marquette Interchange.

Amanda Frelka-Bruch and husband, Jason

“My heart reached out to him,” she said. But it wasn’t just her heart. Before long, she was bringing the man lunch when she could and soon got to know him.

As they talked, she learned he was a Veteran who had served two tours in Afghanistan. She was flabbergasted: How could a man who served his country be abandoned to live on the street?

That led her to her sister, a nurse at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, who filled her in on some of the many reasons Veterans become homeless.

“What can I do to help?” she asked.

“Give them essentials,” her sister replied.

Helping the homeless for five years

That was five years ago. Frelka-Bruch (pictured above), her friends, family and co-workers have been helping homeless Veterans each year ever since.

This year, she donated nearly 100 kits that contain toiletries and other essentials for homeless Veterans. In all, the donations were worth about $3,500.

“Each kit was in a laundry bag and contained peanut butter, sewing kit, emergency blanket, emergency shelter, hand sanitizer, hat, toothbrush, pocket tissue, baby wipes, lotion, thermal socks, body wash, shampoo,” said Torrie Hutchison. Hutchinson is a Voluntary Services specialist with the Milwaukee VA.

Amanda and Jason load a cart with kits.

The kits will go to Veterans in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Appleton, Racine and Waukesha.

The money and donations come from a variety of sources, Frelka-Bruch said, including her church, service clubs and her employer, MilliporeSigma, which matches the amount donated.

Encourages others to step up

Frelka-Bruch said she plans to keep up the annual donation drive “as long as God allows me to. I think they deserve so much more than they get.”

“For someone to love their country, to fight for freedom, we should fight for their freedom,” she said. “I think this country could do better.”

On her Facebook page, she encourages others to step up and help those in need, especially now.

“If you see something you feel you can change, be the difference. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Follow your calling. Don’t stop. Love with all your being, even in a pandemic.”


David Walter is a public affairs specialist with the Milwaukee VA.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Tomas Burriel    

    I’m a Viet Nam vet and I’m homeless myself but I do have a tent that my wife & I live in we are saving our money to buy a home for our self’s my credit good and by the end of this year we will have enough to buy our home God Bless you all for helping the ones that have less than I do I’m bless to have a good woman to help me keep up the good work & Bless you for caring !!!!

  2. Roxanne Gay Hazelton    

    How can I get involved? I am a Disabled Veteran female, in my town in Greenville SC I see Veterans sleeping on the sidewalks in our downtown area. What can I do for them.
    Sometimes I give them money to eat.
    Would love to get involved!
    How can I help?

    Sgt. Roxanne Hazelton

  3. William Shaffer    

    Thank you for your service to us homeless vets we do appreciate it more than you know. I just got my VASH and moved into my apartment on Thanksgiving day. I can say first hand that getting a voucher takes work and you have to stay on top of it but it is possible. Very possible. I would also like to let you all know about someone who has helped me and so many more this person is one amazing women and I’m not trying to cut Mrs.Frelka-Bruch sorry in anyway. But I would like to let ppl know about Retired First Sergeant Kennedy here in the Portland area she started her own non profit in Clackamas county helping all veterans no matter their discharge get housing and employment. Ft. Kennedy is the name of her non profit and it is a safe place for all veterans who are in need. She has amazingly kept the doors open thru this pandemic how I don’t know but she has. With out Ft.Kennedy I don’t believe i would be in my own place rite now. It is not only what she has done but she gave me the hope and support to keep trying and to keep going. I only started going to the center after the pandemic started so I don’t know how it was before but from what I can tell it was and still is the best place to go when you have no where else to turn. I was about to that point again in my life rite before I meet First Sergeant. I was tired, tired of life tired of living in the street being looked at like I was worthless. I felt worthless and honestly I was giving up. I was suicidal I wouldn’t I couldn’t say that back in August of 2020 but I can and am saying it now. Anyways long story but back to my point thank you to all who help us homeless vets and from the bottom of my heart thank you First Sergeant you saved my life and I know you have saved countless others. I just wanted ppl to know about this amazing person as well. I again thank Mrs. Frelka-Bruch for her service as well and want trying to cut her short I just wanted ppl to know my story and the amazing person who helped me. She definitely rose not get enough credit for what and who she is. Thank you for being you Top. I hope you some hope come across this some day sooner than later and hope you finally get all the help you need to continue helping us the way you do..

  4. Brian Sparks    

    I feel so touched by this ,I was wondering how I could start something like this, in North Carolina?Any suggestions would and will be appreciated. I’m a veteran and see lots of homeless in my area.I font have money to give ,but really want to help.Please let me know ?I just want to give or help,but don’t have any resources.

  5. George W Simpson    

    How do you identify, find vets in need? Who can we leave help bags with to get them in the vets hands?
    Is there a coordinator for the State of Georgia, for the city of Rome, GA ?

  6. Ronald A Larsen    

    I feel it an absolute atrocity that with the number of Millionaires and Billionaires in our Country, that there should be any Homeless People in our Country. Especially when they are Veterans who fought for this Country to protect these very same Millionaires and Billionaires, and to keep the Freedoms and Liberties that God gave to us to enjoy the comforts that they and we enjoy. I am a Veteran myself. I served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam in the year 1972. These Veterans are my Brothers, and it hurts me to my heart to see them this way, Before you say well why don’t you help. I will only say, that is between me and God. My prayer is that all the Homeless people will be afforded a Home. Never again to have to sleep on a sidewalk, or carry everything they have in a plastic bag or grocery cart.

  7. Agnes E. Nilsen    

    I can sympathize with this story. My husband is 85 and a Korean War Vet. In 2010 and 2011 we lived in or car, because no one would rent to a Veteran in Missoula MT. It was expensive as well. Even the VFW and American Legion, both of who he was a Member, only offered to buy him a beer, nothing else. I tried to get us a VASH Voucher, even the local VA Clinic claimed to know nothing. I finally called Washington DC VA National and they put me in touch with an Office in Idaho and North Dakota who kept in touch for 3 months, and was appaled Montana would not help. They finally got a man in Helena MT named Mark Annas and he helped us get a Voucher. It still took 2 months to get a place 60 miles out of town because they would not rent to us in Missoula, they stated VASH was a scam. So yes, The VA is very laxed about helping our Veterans. God Bless you for what you are doing.

  8. John Hadder    

    Amanda Frelka-Bruch should start a national program with the financial assistance of the VA. Distribution centers could be created throughout the country. Her role would be to package and distribute these Essential packages to the distribution centers. It could become a full-time position with a national reach and national impact.

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