The Boothbay BBQ had a bit of everything on August 21 as more than 300 people attended the event which benefits homeless Maine veterans. There was good food including burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, and chili dogs. There was three hours of entertainment by Maine jazz group “The Volunteers” performing at events promoting veterans causes. There was also a range of family court games like badminton and the corn hole. Most importantly, VETS, Inc.’s first BBQ fundraiser was on the ball because everyone involved participated in helping homeless veterans.
VETS, Inc started over a year ago as a concept. Local veterans Ed Harmon, Arthur Richardson and John Hargreaves created the nonprofit to show how a mobile shelter was a practical way to meet the short-term needs of homeless veterans. Instead, their vision turned into a plan of action. VETS has created a network of sponsors who have joined with them to build temporary mini-shelters and promote veterans issues. VETS, Inc. has constructed nine temporary shelters, deployed four around the state, and is in the process of constructing eight more.
For Ed Harmon, founder of VETS, Inc., the first-time event was a huge success and raised over $ 9,000. “It’s a generous community and we are very happy to participate. People told me they had a great time and we’re excited to do it again next year, ”he said.
The barbecue also had an army of volunteers who helped make the three-hour event happen. Eddie Harmon of Monmouth is a veteran who served six years in the US Navy. Eddie Harmon was one of the many volunteers who held a barbecue, served food, played music or organized the event. “I am here to help my father. Long before he dealt with veterans issues, he was my hero. I’m not at all surprised how it all turned out. If you know my dad, you know he has a big heart and nothing he does is small, ”he said.
Vietnam Veteran Chris Goodwin was one of the many volunteers who served the food. When he heard about the barbecue, he signed up to be part of an effort that provided shelter for homeless veterans. “VETS provides a safe environment for homeless vets. This allows them to get a good night’s sleep. This does not happen in the street where they are always anxious and on their guard. In addition, it gives them hope and a better opportunity to determine their future, ”he said.
One of the first barbecue participants was the Ostrander family who live in Spain. The family has a summer home in Phippsburg and wanted to support the veterans, enjoy a summer barbecue, and participate in family field games. “We have a parent who plays with the band, so we came,” said Betsy Ostrander. “It’s a great cause and a great way to spend the day. “
The professional jazz group “The Volunteers” provided music. The group formed seven years ago after group manager Lynn Kinney of Pownal heard the song “American Patrol” on the radio. The song was popularized by Big Band frontman Glenn Miller. “I was driving and heard the song that reminded me of Al’s Diner in Mars Hill. I remember a friend of mine named Eddie, Medal of Honor recipient. He once recounted what happened in WWII when the song played on the jukebox. It made me want to do something to honor all veterans, ”she said.
“The Volunteers” first performed at an event associated with veteran Travis Mills and has since performed about a dozen times a year for veteran support events. The American Riders, a Maine motorcycle club that supports veteran causes, was scheduled to appear. The club participated in the Maine Bicentennial Parade in Lewiston, but several motorcycles developed mechanical problems and were unable to do so, according to Ed Harmon.