WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The McDonald’s parking lot on South Wilkes-Barre Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre was filled with people wearing bright green sweatshirts. The Valor Clinic Foundation held a stand down Sunday morning. During the event volunteers gave clothing, a warm meal, and supplies to veterans and people facing homelessness. Mark Baylis, founder of the non-profit says that basic needs are even more necessary in the winter.
“The ground can suck the warmth out of you fast, and the cold in this part of Pennsylvania in the winter time, it can kill people,” Baylis said.
“Chilly and cold and almost a death sentence,” Paul DeFrain, who served in the army for more than 20 years, said.
The non-profit is dedicated to helping veterans. Baylis says veterans face many challenges, including higher divorce rates.
“Higher unemployment rates. Double the homeless rates as a rule. And suicide rates goes without mentioning,” Baylis said.
Defrain, like many of his fellow veterans, was once homeless.
“I wanted to commit suicide, but with a family and a pet that went out the window,” DeFrain said.
Organizers say events like this are important because many facing homelessness don’t trust the system and shy away from places like shelters that have failed them.
“Sometimes if you can build a relationship and get to know people, you can help them break down some of their fears and get them to resources,” Baylis said.
This is the first time the Valor Clinic Foundation has held an event in Wilkes-Barre, but Baylis says this is the biggest first day event the group has ever had.
“It’s your smallest event. It’s your first one right? And we’re, we’re above 30 already today,” he said.
The organization gives away about 300,000 clothing items a year.