Vietnam veteran working to feed other veterans through charity
Bill McCann created Vittles for Vets eight years ago and needs community help to keep it alive
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - This story is the perfect definition for this series. Not only is this month’s veteran a “hometown veteran.” He spends his time “honoring our heroes.”
Bill McCann is not quick to talk about himself and his time spent in the military. But he’ll talk about helping veterans all day. “By the end of this year we would have issued close to $550,000 in food gift cards over the life of this charity,” McCann said.
In 2014, McCann created Vittles for Vets, a program providing nutritious foods to veterans who have fallen on hard times. It all started after an encounter with a struggling veteran at the VA Medical Center in Rhode Island. “I said, I’ll buy you lunch. I brought him a $50 gift certificate to a local food market, and this guy, he’s 350 pounds, a big boy, and he grabbed my hand and he started to cry and said ‘No one’s ever done something like this for me before’,” explained McCann.
Vittles for Vets serves approximately 150 veterans. McCann works closely with the Salem VA Medical Center and typically veterans are given gift cards for food on a weekly basis. But recently, things have taken a drastic turn. “Most of my veterans rely on the Vittles as their main supplier of food. So when I had to make the phone calls to over 130 veterans, and say we have a financial problem due to the economy, we have to take the food cards and rather than issue once a week, I have to cut back. It’s unsustainable. I can only issue cards as money comes in to keep it fair.”
Over the last year, donations have decreased by 47%. McCann says donations must improve or the charity can not survive. But this veteran is not giving up. If there’s one thing Vietnam taught him… “I have a soft spot for veterans. I love all veterans! What I love about them is they don’t ask for anything. They’ll tell you ‘I’m fine, everything’s fine’ and its not, its not fine.”
McCann knows a thing or two about things “not being fine.” He was diagnosed with PTSD long after the war, but he got help and continues to have a passion to help his military brothers and sisters. “You’re scared, you’re afraid for a period of time and then you just get, your not, you just deal with it.”
He’s a Hometown Vietnam Veteran and he hopes to continue to help other veterans who need to be served.
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