Veterans Day Cook-Off to celebrate, house homeless veterans

Veterans Day Cook-Off to celebrate and house homeless veterans (WNWO)

TOLEDO, Oh. (WNWO) -- A nationwide effort to help veterans on Veterans Day is taking place in Toledo Friday.

The organizations Veterans Matter and The Exchange Club of Toledo are joining other Exchange Clubs across the country in what they call 11/11@7 rallies. They're hosting Chili Cook-Offs in 100 cities nationwide, all with the same purpose in mind.

"What is so wonderful about this event is the community coming together just to say veterans truly do matter,” says Ken Leslie, advocate in chief of Veterans Matter. “We take care of our own.”

This is the second year local advocacy group Veterans Matter is participating in The National Exchange Club's fundraising rallies across the country.

"Events like these help lead veterans know they are appreciated, that they're not forgotten,” says Tracey Edwards, executive vice president and CEO of The National Exchange Club. “And that also somebody is there to help them, whether it's a financial need or even a job or need with just a support and thank you."

The family-friendly event begins at 7pm at Heatherdowns Country Club. There will be 20 chili vendors competing in the cook-off. The $5 cost to enter will provide you with the spoon to try as much chili as you please.

"When you come to the door it's only five dollars,” says Louise Kachmarik, chair of 11/11@7. “All the chili you can taste. We have a bake sale, silent auction, wine pool, all kinds of fun events going on."

Last year, they raised over $55,000 for Veteran Matters and are looking to double that this year. The ultimate goal: getting veterans off the street and into permanent homes.

"The people that come out Friday night are going to be able to help us prevent a veteran family or family with children from sleeping in the car this winter, where the children are just shivering against their mom just begging for some place warm,” says Leslie.

Leslie says nationwide, there are more than 39,000 veterans living on the streets right now. Lucas Co. Veterans' Service Commission has housed more than 200 so far.

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