Splendido gives to newly housed vets
courtesy photo, Toni Bravo, who helps displaced military veterans find housing through a Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Administration and Section 8 program, and Splendido resident Julia Zahn sort through housewares donated by residents of the Rancho Vistoso community.

Early Tuesday morning, troops stationed at Davis Monthan Air Force Base drove five trucks to Splendido, where they picked up housewares donated for use by homeless military veterans who are being placed in homes and apartments.

"For me, and for the residents, this is especially good," said Julia Zahn, a Splendido resident who helped organized the drive for pots and pans, silverware, dishware, microwave ovens, utensils and so much more.

"Psychologically, it closes the loop," Zahn continued. Residents "learned about it, gathered up stuff, donated it, and now they'll see it go in the military trucks."

When the Davis Monthan pick-up was arranged, Zahn went a step further.

"I decided, if they're going to give up their morning to come, we should at least treat them to breakfast," Zahn said.

Splendido's "famous" four-star generals, Gen. John Wickham and Gen. Ross Milton, are joining the troops for a meal. A Splendido resident and retired professional photographer is taking pictures of the generals with the troops, who'll get a chance to share time with military "brass."

"We're making a big deal out of it, because it is a big deal," Zahn said. "We want to thank the military for being the military.

Donated items are being used by homeless veterans who are being assisted by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Veterans Administration and the federal Section 8 program. HUD finds the housing, the Section 8 housing program provides free or low-cost utilities, and the VA finds and supervises the previously homeless veterans. The VA "makes sure they're going to be responsible, and they always case-manage them along the way," Zahn said.

"They get them out of tents, cars, under bridges, and into houses or apartments," Zahn said. But newly placed vets lack the basics, sheets, towels, pots and pans, pillows and blankets … hence the drive, which has been "overwhelmingly successful.

"It just is amazing how these Splendido people are so compassionate and so generous," she said. "Crock pots, microwaves, toaster ovens, you name it, we've got it. It's the stuff that's in your kitchen drawers, spatulas, knives, silverware."

 Zahn said it helps Splendido residents to make such donations, "because we all brought more stuff than we need. We get perfectly good meals here. We don't need a lot of pots and pans and things of that nature. That's why the residents were able to jump right in."

In addition, cash donations were used to purchase shower curtains, mops, buckets and other essentials for new residents. "They're terribly important when you're just moving into a house," Zahn said. "These guys can't buy things like that."

The early January collection generated "so much we couldn't carry it. Our little F-150 pick-up would have to make five trips to the VA."

DM personnel have provided other assistance in moving goods. It so happens that Gen. Milton, in his 90s, a leader of U.S. military efforts in Europe during World War II, remains well-connected.

"I said 'Ross, this would go a lot of faster if I had a general to make the call'" for aid, Zahn said. A day later, things were moving. "He played a very important bit," Zahn said. "To us, he's just dear old Ross."

Momentum continues. "The thing's now been over two weeks, and I got a call from somebody this morning" asking if they could donate, Zahn said.

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