Operation Veteran Caregiver Support seeks help for family after tornado


By Kathleen Leese

For Miami Valley Today

PIQUA — When the EF3 tornado ripped through Lakeview on March 14, it changed many lives forever including one family already struggling with cancer. But on March 20, Operation Veteran Caregiver Support (OVCS), an organization based out of Piqua, got involved and are determined to help this family put their lives back together.

OVCS, located on East Ash Street, is a nonprofit organization that serves the Miami Valley and specializes in connecting veterans and their caregivers to resources and provide fellowship.

When Valerie Mullikin, director of OVCS, got a referral from the Logan County Veteran’s Services office asking if she could help this family, she knew OVCS had to do something. The family, whose last names are not being given to protect their privacy, include a grandfather, Bruce, a Vietnam War era veteran, his wife, Pat, and their granddaughter, Trinity, who will graduate from Indian Lake High School and Ohio Hi-Point Career Center in May, for whom they are legal guardians and their beloved dog, Murphy.

“They had a mobile home in Star Home Mobile Park,” Mullikin said. “Literally, the only thing left is the deck and the storage building.”

The family was already dealing with issues, since Bruce has what Mullikin described as “terminal metastatic cancer.” The family had just returned from Bruce’s chemo treatment about a half hour before the tornado hit.

“She (Pat) was in their home, he was out on the deck, the granddaughter was at work,” Mullikin recounted.

When the tornado hit, everything they had was destroyed, but no one was injured. Later, Pat showed Mullikin the pants she had been wearing. They were covered in holes, after being pelted by debris from the tornado.

The family are now living in a motel in Bellefontaine. Their cars were not damaged.

“Their income is very minimal,” Mullikin explained, noting there is the possibility they could move into income based housing, but “they have to include their granddaughter’s income.”

Because of that, they would go from $300 per month rent to “tripling” their rent or possibly more, Mullikin said. She added that the granddaughter has been out of work for five weeks because of the tornado and is only just returning to work.

The other problem with a possible move to an apartment is that Bruce would have difficulty with all of the stairs, which Mullikin said will not work for them. The income based housing is trying to force them to give up their dog, something Pat told Mullikin was unthinkable after everything else they have lost.

Mullikin cried as she shared meeting the family,“The first time I talked to her (Pat), I asked what she needed right now and she said, ‘I can use a hot meal.’”

Mullikin said OVCS gave the family a gift card to Cracker Barrel so they could get a warm meal. The family has been “eating out of a microwave and a mini refrigerator” in their motel room, Mullikin said, “For a cancer patient, that is not optimal.”

Mullikin said OVCS provided a $250 Walmart card and a $150 Kroger card to the family.

“When we took her the gift cards, she (Pat) said she was literally sitting there praying, ‘God, how am I going to make it to the next day.’” Mullikin said she arrived as Pat was praying she had told her OVCS “‘was literally an answer to prayer.’”

“Miss Pat looked at me and said, ‘now we can go and buy some underwear.’” Even something so basic was gone. Pat told Mullikin, “‘I am squeezing every penny I can to stretch it as far as I can.’”

United Way has offered help with some furnishings, but is requiring the family to get estimates for everything. While Mullikin understands accountability, she noted that for Pat, “it is another stressor.” As a result, Mullikin offered to get the estimates for her.

While OVCS is a grassroots operation in Piqua, operating completely on donations and is not a government program, Mullikin said it is the organization’s dream to buy a mobile home for the family. She would like to raise at least $80,000 to help the family have a home that would work for them and she is hoping the Miami County community will help. If they raise more than that, Mullikin said that money will help some other veteran families affected by the tornado. There is a mobile home available if they can raise the funds.

Mullikin said there are several ways to donate to help this family and others affected by the tornado. One is through Thrivent, which has a partnership with OVCS. The link to donate to OVCS for effected families through Thrivent is https://thrivent.cotribute.co/events/947318/detail?

Additionally, those wanting to help this particular family can send a check to Operation Veteran Caregiver Support, P.O. Box 1755, Piqua, Ohio 45356. Individuals sending checks must include in the memo line “Indian Lake High School student,” so they will know it is for this family.

Individuals can also drop off cash donations or checks for this particular family on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the OVCS office located at 987 E. Ash St. You can also call 937-570-6460 and ask to meet Millikin or a staff member at the office at other times to drop off a donation. Please note or tell staff that the donations are to be earmarked for Bruce, Pat and Trinity.

In addition to monetary donations, Millikin said the family needs bath towels, queen size bed sheets, pillows, dog bedding, dog food and treats, a flea collar and all kitchen supplies. Gift cards for Bellefontaine area stores would be helpful, for Walmart, Aldi and Kroger, and Scrubs Uniforms online and/or Maurice’s gift cards for Trinity. Please let OVCS know that the gift cards and other donations are for the family.

Milliken has promised $1000 to purchase beds once the family is settled in a home. Any funds left over will be put in a “blessing fund” to benefit other veterans.

The family is not going to give up, as Pat keeps telling Millikin, “‘By the grace of God.’”

The writer is a regular contributor to Miami Valley Today.

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