West Side News

Food drive for Ohio veterans to honor late brother

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A sister is honoring her late brother, Mark Allen Cravens, with a food drive to help Ohio veterans in need.

Caroline Cravens said her brother, a Desert Storm veteran, served in the Air Force for more than three years.

"Mark was honorably discharged in June of 1993," she said. "Two weeks later, he died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 21. He had a love for motorcycles, and the military was his life."

In addition to his sister, Cravens has a surviving identical twin brother who also served in the Air Force for 20 years and is an Iraq veteran.

Marking the 20th anniversary of his death, Cravens said her main goal for "Supporting Veterans -- The Mark Allen Cravens (MAC) Food Drive" is to collect nonperishable goods for Ohio veterans who attend VA clinics.

"The nonperishable goods are for the veterans that are dealing with financial difficulties," she said. "It is very sad what I just recently learned. There are some veterans that only eat one meal a day. It's time to take a stand and support our fellow veterans who fought for our country and show them support as they sacrificed their lives for us."

The drop-off for the food drive is at the VFW Post 9857, 2330 Stelzer Road, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Aug. 6.

Post Commander Ron Ward said he offered the post as a drop-off site.

"I work at a booth at the Franklin County Stand Down at Veterans Memorial," Ward said. "You'd be amazed how many veterans come through. There are a lot of homeless veterans out there."

Every year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides services to homeless veterans at Stand Downs across the country. The VA's first Stand Down was held in San Diego in 1988. The intent is to provide services to homeless veterans. the Stand Downs typically are one- to three-day events, providing such services as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, like housing and employment.

This year's Central Ohio Homeless Veterans Stand Down is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at Veterans Memorial, 300 W. Broad St. Admission is free for veterans, who will be offered a variety of services and a hot meal.

"They have doctors, lawyers and judges there," Ward said. "They have all kinds of clothing. It's a big deal."

He said VFW Post 9857 helps veterans periodically with rent or food but nothing on a regular basis.

"We have a service officer for veterans who need help to get benefits going," Ward said.

Cravens, a Powell resident who works in Gahanna, said her brother was a police officer in the Air Force.

"He was an outstanding soldier, brother, son and friend," she said. "I am so proud to call him my hero. He was such a good person and always gave back to his community. So now I think it's time to honor him in his name and give back."

Following the food collection, the distribution will be held Aug. 7 at the Mifflin Township Police Station, 2455 Agler Road, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To receive the nonperishable goods, veterans must present a veteran identification or honorable-discharge papers.

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