Sanibel resident launches ‘Shoes for Homeless Veterans’ campaign
After visiting two large VA hospitals in Southwest Florida, Dan Perkins, a Sanibel resident, found that both hospitals were in critical need of shoes for homeless veterans.
“Between the two hospitals, they have about 150 homeless veterans who come in from off the street,” Perkins said.
After speaking with some of the men in his church, Perkins decided to run a campaign from Nov. 19 through Dec. 19 to collect shoes for the homeless veterans.
After speaking with the directors of voluntary service for both hospitals, Perkins found that many veterans don’t apply for jobs because they don’t have the proper shoes.
For his “Shoes for Homeless Veterans” campaign, Perkins is looking for work boots, sneakers and dress shoes in sizes 9-11 that have never been worn. The shoes can be dropped off at Bailey’s General Store, The Dunes Golf and Tennis Club and St. Isabel Catholic Church.
“We’re trying to get as many sets of shoes as we possibly can,” he said.
The shoes will be distributed to the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and the Lee County VA Healthcare Center.
Aside from the campaign, Perkins is heavily involved with his foundation, Songs and Stories for Soldiers which he started four years ago. Songs and Stories for Soldiers provides veterans with a free MP3 player and headset, two audiobooks and 8 hours of sleep music. Perkins also gives veterans access to over three million songs, over 100,000 audiobooks 30,000 old time radio programs and sleep music.
“What our player does is give the soldier the ability to customize their own library while in the chair (at the doctor’s office) so they can listen to what they want to listen to,” Perkins said. “We’ve distributed over 13,000 (music) players.”
The foundation works with 82 VA hospitals, clinics, community centers and homeless shelters throughout the country to help veterans deal with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep deprivation, suicide prevention and other health conditions.
Perkins said sleep deprivation, especially, is a problem among veterans.
“(On the music player), there’s an 8 hour sleep audio designed to help the soldier get to REM level sleep. REM level sleep is where the mind, body and soul begin to heal. If you can’t get to REM level sleep, you can’t regenerate the body,” Perkins said. “Our foundation is about getting that soldier in a hospital, homeless shelter, on the street or at home with his wife to deal with the challenge of getting through the night.”
Perkins’ next endeavor includes targeting female veterans specifically. After finding out the female veterans are 12 times more likely to commit suicide compared to their civilian counterparts, Perkins decided he needed to do something about it.
“We curated a project piloted here in Cape Coral called Women Heroes. What we’re doing is we’re working with the social workers at the community clinics to try and encourage people that know women veterans to come in and they’re using our MP3 player as the gift to try to entice more women to come in,” Perkins said. “We’re doing it in four different facilities here. We’re also testing it in Chillicothe, Ohio. We’ll be testing it shortly for veteran’s hospitals in St. Petersburg and Tampa.”
Perkins said that Songs and Stories for Soldiers doesn’t take any of the proceeds.
“All of our expenses are paid by us, not by the foundation,” he said.
For more information about the foundation, go to songsandstoriesforsoldiers.us.
For more information, call Perkins at 973-687-4826.