By Laura Fawaz, Contributing Reporter
Novi, MIâ€“As a veteran, Helen Hardmeyer found herself wanting to give back to those who helped her start her livelihood.
Hardmeyer shows her display and tells her message to any customers that visit
How does she give back? By making quilts. There are over 1,500 vets in the Ann Arbor facility alone that need these quilts, but these quilts are also used to help those currently deployed. Hardmeyer sells these quilts along with other items such as aprons, at various locations such as Art Is In Market, an artist co-op gallery located at The Mall of Partridge Creek in Clinton Township, Laurel Park Place Mall in Livonia, and 12 Oaks Mall in Novi. Then, the money raised is used to buy essential materials used for care packages. And on the 11th of every month, a group called Desert Angels meets in Oxford, Michigan, to pack what they call â€œmiracle boxes.â€
Currently, the men and women serving in the army rely on the â€œdropped food,â€ these are the so-called miracle boxes that can only be dropped from the sky. â€œWe donâ€™t want our men to come home like they did in WWI with diseases. They come home anyways with bad things [post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD], but not as bad as WWI, so were trying to lessen it and improve. There are more people aware and more people doing more things, but thereâ€™s still much, much more that we need to do,â€ Hardmeyer said.
Currently, any veterans that are in need of medical assistance can go to places such as the Ann Arbor hospital outpatient center to get whatever they need. At first, she just took ties for the vets for job interviews. But when she got to the Ann Arbor hospital, she realized that they were in need of clothing altogether. â€œBut often they have problems such as lack of housing, so Iâ€™ve taken suits to the hospital, Iâ€™ve taken shoes, Iâ€™ve taken blankets, they come to the Ann Arbor pantry to get what they need,â€ said Hardmeyer.
At this time, in the immediate war zone, the service men and women only get what is dropped. But in the secondary zone, they get breakfast and dinner, no lunches. And according to Hardmeyer, if youâ€™re not there from a flight zone, you donâ€™t get dinner until the next meal is served. So while those fighting for their country are in a war zone, in the desert, they are not guaranteed food. Hardmeyer said that she only came to learn this by talking to veterans. That is also when she came to find out why the men came home after WWI with beriberi disease. They were given one tablespoon of horse meat a meal, with some rice, and that was all that they got. So Hardmeyer said, â€œWe send fruit roll-ups because they wonâ€™t get any kind of fruit or perishable items like crÃ¨me cheese. They wonâ€™t get any of these things, or even vitamins until someone sends them a care package. Think of yourself in the woods someplace, thereâ€™s no store, thereâ€™s no transportation.â€
So of course I asked, then for those serving so many years, letâ€™s say five years, thereâ€™s a chance they can go five years without having healthy fruits and vegetables? Hardmeyerâ€™s response, â€œYep, thatâ€™s it, totally, if they are in an out of area space. Now if they are in a command center, they have meals and transportation.â€
â€œBut letâ€™s say that you live in Rochester, Michigan, and your closest base is the Selfridge Air Force base, how are you going to walk there to get what you need, and walk back again,â€ Hardmeyer continued.
By the way, the distance from Rochester, Michigan to the Selfridge Air force Base, located in Harrison, Michigan, is 148.7 miles each way. Then Hardmeyer continues to tell a story that many of us have experienced, â€œIâ€™ve seen many a man sitting on the corner in Ann Arbor with a cup in his hand, living in a box asking for help,â€ she said.
â€œAnd they want to cut, and they keep cutting,â€ said Hardmeyer referring to government cutting military budget, and continued with, â€œI canâ€™t believe that the military is not getting three square meals a day. We need to do more, and our government needs to do more.â€
After Vietnam, medical records showed that people who never smoked a day in their life came back with throat cancer. This was caused by Agent Orange being used overseas. â€œIt does things and is ruining our children today because it comes through that channel, because theyâ€™re a carrier,â€ said Hardmeyer.
Agent Orange was a chemical used as a part of the United Statesâ€™ strategy in Vietnam. It was used to conduct an herbicide program to remove foliage providing cover for their enemy. Agent Orange was later confirmed to be a cancer-causing chemical. Those hurt badly enough and sent home were sent straight to the hospital because they couldnâ€™t physically go out into life. â€œBut the ones who are well enough to be outside of the hospital are the ones who need to make a life for themselves, they need to have a job and be good enough to communicate things for themselves. But how many of them can do that? How many have to relearn how to live, rethink life, and relearn the structure? Youâ€™re gone for three years, how many things can go on?â€ said Hardmeyer.
So what can you do to help? â€œWe need more packers at the packing house in Oxford, on the 11th of every month,â€ said Hardmeyer, and continued with, â€œyou need to bring the stuff to the stores the Tuesday before, and it is so greatly appreciated. Soap, wash clothes, anything, whatever you have, they certainly appreciate.â€
Go to DesertAngel.org to access the list of items needed to bring into anyone of the Art Is In Market locations. â€œI mean they need toothpaste, they need toothbrushes, you can find so many things here in our world, but they donâ€™t have a store around the corner, they are in a foxhole, they are in an abandoned building,â€ Hardmeyer added.