Harvest Hope Food Bank held a drive Wednesday at the McDonalds on Forest Drive to collect donations of non-perishable food, cleaning supplies, and clothes for “Operation HP,” a program that assists homeless veterans.
Operation HP, which stands for Hunger Prevention was started in 2016 by a grant given to the Department of Veteran Affairs funded by Walmart in the Upstate after the local branch of the company recognized the need to help the large population of homeless veterans in the area.
Flash forward two years and the Harvest Hope food bank in Columbia is providing food to “over 1,100 veterans and their families every month,” says Operation HP Coordinator Jacquelynn Conyers.
Ralph Medina, one of Wednesday’s donors, said he is is a veteran from the 82ndAirborne Division of the United States Army.
Medina, a fourth-generation war veteran, showed up with a trunk full of donations even though he learned of the drive only three hours earlier. Medina says that giving back to “all who served in the military, no matter the branch, is a no-brainer.”
“Having served myself, I know that military people are the silent ones who don’t want to ask for any help,” Medina said. But according to statistics from the South Carolina Interagency on Homelessness, homeless veterans need help.
While the population of South Carolina is only made up of 10.3% veterans, the homeless population in the state is made up of 12.8% of veterans. In the Midlands alone, over 49% of the homeless veterans are unsheltered compared to the average 27% of other groups of homeless people, according to the South Carolina Interagency on Homelessness.