By Sarah Shurge – For nearly 30 years, Veteran’s Haven has been helping veterans in need within our community.
“I just want people to know we’re here and we’re willing to help as much as possible,” said Judy Berna, co-founder of Veteran’s Haven since it was established in 1994.
Veteran’s Haven is a non-profit organization run on donations and volunteers with the purpose of helping homeless and needy veterans with food, clothing, job opportunities, and much more.
“They [veterans] need our help,” said Berna. “If you don’t have a family member or know someone that is a veteran, you don’t usually think to help them. A lot of our vets have served and are coming back with issues and we have to help them.”
Berna’s husband, Vince Berna, was a Vietnam veteran that was forced to retire at an early age. He took a job delivering food and saw a lot of homeless people in the process. After talking to some of them, he discovered that many of them were veterans.
This sparked the idea within Vince and Judy to establish Veteran’s Haven.
“In the beginning, I was doing everything here, said Berna. “I hung lights in the parking lot, I drove a Hi-Lo, I did paperwork, and everything. But my husband did most of the heavy lifting.”
In 1999, Veterans’ Haven partnered with Gleaners Community Food Bank.
“Gleaners brings a lot of food,” said Berna. “Every Tuesday the truck comes in, but we never know what we’re gonna get. We get a lot of produce, milk, and eggs. Sometimes meat.”
With the partnership with Gleaners, Veteran’s Haven is able to provide a food pantry day every Tuesday. The food bank is firstly for veterans and then people within the community can come after.
Veteran’s Haven welcomes cash donations (which can be dropped off at their location), new-clothes donations (because of COVID, they ask for no used-clothes donations), food donation, or volunteers to help with the food bank on Tuesday mornings.
Veteran’s Haven is located at 4924 South Wayne Rd. It is open 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Monday-Friday. They are closed on holidays.
On Friday, February 11th, Veteran’s Haven received an enormous donation from Cleveland-Cliffs. A truck dropped off 16,000 pounds of canned goods and dry goods.
“We were shocked,” said Berna. “We’ve never gotten that much food at one time from one company. It was just amazing. They just kept bringing it in and bringing it in.”
The non-profit runs on donations and volunteers with the purpose of helping homeless and needy veterans with not only food and clothing, but even job opportunities. Sometimes Veteran’s Haven will receive phone calls or emails for job opportunities for veterans.
Veteran’s Haven also refers to the US Veterans Affairs Department (VA) with medical benefits for the vets. As long as the vets were honorably discharged, they are entitled to services.
There are four one-bedroom-apartment units in Norwayne providing permanent housing for veterans now as well. In order to live there, the vets have to follow the rules and pay their rent. Westland Housing Commission participates in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, so the vets only have to pay a certain percentage of rent.
At present time, all four units are occupied. So there is currently a waiting list for the permanent housing.
Two and a half years ago, Veteran’s Haven suffered a devastating loss when Vince, the president and founder, passed away.
After his passing, Berna took some time away from Veteran’s Haven.
“It was hard to come back here without him, but it’s rewarding to me with the memories. It’s a great place to be; helping people, especially our veterans,” said Berna. “We have a great board that kept everything running while I was gone.”
There are nine board members total, consisting of: now President Judy Berna, Vice President Vern Amos, Secretary Mary Pierson, treasurer, and trustees. With the board members and volunteers, there are around 25 people involved with Veteran’s Haven almost at all times.
“I promised Vince I would keep it [Veteran’s Haven] running as long as I can,” said Berna. “I’ve got a great team around here. A great board and great volunteers, but we are always looking for more volunteers.”
If you are interested in donating, volunteering, or looking for more information, you can contact Veteran’s Haven by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at (734)728-0527, or find them on Facebook at Veteran’s Haven.
The Gleaners truck arrives every Tuesday anywhere from 7:30-10 a.m., so volunteers are asked to show up around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday if they wish to volunteer.