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$2,000 gifts benefit homeless vets in Armstrong County

Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Mechling Shakley Veteran Center resident, Phil Cerinara, 61, glances over a 1959 Triumph TR3, owned by Bill Johnson of Kittanning. Members from two local car clubs made a visit to the Meckling Shakley Veterans Center to donate $1,000 each. Wednesday December 4, 2013

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To donate

Contact information for volunteering or donating to Mechling-Shakley can be found at www.268center.com or by calling 724-545-9016.

Additional car club information can be found at www.kithannecarclub.com and keystonekruisers.com or by calling Bobbi Jensen at 724-664-1022.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 1:41 a.m.
 

SUGARCREEK — Car enthusiasts from two area clubs have teamed up to help lift the spirits of homeless veterans in Armstrong County.

On Wednesday, the Kit-Han-Ne Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America and the Keystone Kruisers each donated $1,000 to the Mechling-Shakley Veterans Center in Cowansville.

“Every Christmas, we pick an organization to give a donation to,” said Bobbi Jensen, president of the Kit-Han-Ne Region club.

“This year, the club voted on (Mechling-Shakley),” she said, adding that the club works closely with Randy Kruze, president of Keystone Kruisers.

The nonprofit residential-treatment facility provides homeless veterans with rehabilitation and support.

Executive Director Sean Taladay said the center's mission is to provide services that build on a person's self-esteem by strengthening all aspects of the individual so they can return to the community as a respected member of society.

The center, which works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, relies heavily on donations.

“So any perks these guys get is a plus,” Taladay said.

With the recent donation from the car clubs, the center can now afford the up-front cost of installing a satellite system.

“We're working with other organizations to get TVs,” Taladay said, noting that each room will soon have its own television set.

Until now, all 67 male residents have had to gather in one of three common rooms and reach a consensus on what to watch.

Having individual access to television programs within the privacy of their rooms would mean a lot to the residents, Taladay said.

“We're trying to go above and beyond for them,” he said.

Taladay noted that community members, such as those belonging to Kit-Han-Ne Region and Keystone Kruisers, have been very supportive.

“Our community in Armstrong County has just been outstanding in supporting our homeless veterans. We're blessed. We have a great staff — truly awesome individuals work here,” he said.

For those who would like to contribute, the center has a list of future projects to be funded. Those projects include new roofing, updates to shower facilities, the addition of a computer server for computer networking and new windows for the 16 permanent housing units at the facility.

Both car clubs raised the money for the center by hosting cruises throughout the year, Jensen said. Donations are collected at each event, and the clubs pass those funds on to local charities.

Jensen said the clubs are continuing to collect items for the residents at the Mechling-Shakley center, including men's clothing and bedding for twin-sized mattresses.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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