Christmas is coming entirely too quickly this year for Mike Page. He has a concert to plan and homes to find for thousands of homeless vets.
“There are 150,000 homeless vets nationwide and we have about 3,000 in the surrounding area,” Page said. “Those are just the ones who come forward.”
Page is quick to point out these are not the stereotypical homeless persons. He said these are not men who have given up on society. A majority of these men are disabled individuals who cannot find a job due to their disabilities.
According to data collected by the Center for American Progress in 2011, there are about 75,000 veterans who are homeless on any given night. Veterans are also often homeless for longer. Studies showed veterans were homeless for 5.7 years on average versus a civillian’s 3.9 years.
“These are the people who when we depended on them, they were there,” Page said. “Now they need us, so it is our turn to give back.”
Veterans Caravan of Music is attempting to do just that. The 100 percent nonprofit organization is made up of “retired entertainers, veterans and others whose main objective is to help veterans and their dependents.” Many of the members have 60-plus years of experience in producing shows.
The organization sales flags hand-stitched by veterans for $40 each. Page knew something else had to be done. He realized a concert could become a continual fundraiser with all proceeds going toward finding homes for veterans. V.E.T.Com could use extra money and manpower.
“What we plan on doing is produce a show for December. We are going to call it Veterans Caravan of Music: Home for Christmas,’” Page said. “... What we are trying to do is roll up our sleeves and get the help of the local people through donations.”
Mike’s Chair Shop off Springs Road S.E. is currently being used as the grassroots movement’s headquarters. This is to ensure all money is going toward the concert and not additional expenses. All donations and flag orders can be sent to: Vet.com, 964 Cedar Springs Road, SE, Box 8 Cleveland, TN, 37323. Additional information can be found by emailing Page at email@example.com or calling him at (423) 504-7863.
Jim Case, of Ace Productions and Aaron Records, is also a part of V.E.T.Com. Case and Page have known each other since the mid-60s. Before that, Case worked with Bob Hope in the Stars and Stripes show out of Korea. Both men have worked on countless concerts, but find times have changed.
“In the old days you could pick up the phone to call ... to tell them you were looking for some money to put on a concert. The company would say, ‘Oh great, we love country. We’ll let you have ...,’” Page said. “It does not work the same way anymore. Everything is done on the Internet now with social platforms and networking.”
Members are unfamiliar with social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus+.
“We are old folks and we are used to getting their attention by picking up the phone and calling them,” Page said.
Donations and sponsorships are being requested by V.E.T.Com to provide the base funds for the first concert. Page said if enough money is collected by Nov. 15, then the next step is selecting a venue and finding a performer.
“Every dollar you put in is an investment. We can make ten dollars out of what you just put in,” Page said. “We will reserve enough money out of the first show to pay for the next one. Each show pays for the next so it will become like a perpetual fundraiser.”
Homeless vets are often viewed as participants of older wars. According to reports by CAP in 2011, vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan make up 5.5 percent of the overall homeless population. Veterans are 50 percent more likely than other Americans to become homeless, studies revealed.
Page said he and his associates are attempting to spread the word as quickly as possible. He has contacted radio stations, newspapers and television stations to get his message out. Page said the strength and ‘go get ‘em’ spirit of the American people will make this concert possible.
“Any type of help we can get from local people is welcomed,” Page said. “If we don’t take care of this now, then it will go on for another 147 years. Like everything else, the American people roll up their sleeves and they take care of whatever needs to be done. It has been like that forever.”