Those who have been in certain situations tend to be the best mentors for those in the same situations. Kyle Cornwell is a disabled veteran and he is on a mission to help other veterans. While having dinner with friends one night in Sacramento, Cornwell happened to stumble upon someone who would eventually set his plan in motion.
Cornwell had noticed a man visibly shivering on the sidewalk. He was wearing a military jacket and a Vietnam vet hat, so he made the obvious assumption that the man was a vet and decided to sit down next to him. Before he knew it, he was giving the man his $200 jacket along with his dinner leftovers. Cornwell sat down with him long enough to get the man’s story.
“He started crying. And I just sat with him for like 10 minutes and talked to him and got his story,” Cornwell said. “I thought if I had this effect on just one person, what effect would I have on many more.”
It didn’t take long for Cornwell to devise a plan that would help the 300 homeless veterans that lived in his own northern California community. But, he didn’t want to stop there…his goal was to inspire others around the country. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are more than 39,000 homeless vets nationwide on any given night. In California alone, there are over 9,600.
“I want this to be a movement,” Cornwell said. “I want this to blow up and for people all over the country to do this. I can only help so many veterans in my community and others need to step up (as well). I ask ‘how many people care?’ How many people will donate $5 instead of buying a coffee at Starbucks?’”
So far Cornwell has helped 50 homeless vets in his own home town and he is hoping to double that number soon.
How does he find the vets in need?
Cornwell says that he drives around town to spot to them. After he talks to them and gets their story, he aims to get them warm clothes and food. The biggest part of talking to the vets first is to get a sense of what they are in need of.
He takes notes while talking to them, and includes all of the items that they need, along with their names. He then goes out and gets the items and takes them to them, as if he is a modern day Santa Claus.
“And I keep my word. I go back to the spot I met them.”
Some of the places that Cornwell relies on are the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores near his home. And he is always sure to bring his shopping buddy along with him…his 6-year-old daughter.
“I am a single father and I want to set a good example about paying it forward,” he said. “She’s always asking to go shopping for the vets.”
Word is spreading fast about the mission that Cornwell holds so dear to his heart. Several have offered support and he has even had a U-Haul truck filled with donations that range from clothes to food to sleeping bags and tents.
“One time I had five cars full of stuff to give out,” he said. “Many times we have come back with empty cars.”
While the vets appreciate the items greatly, the most important part of the mission is to talk to them and let them know that there is someone who cares.
“Just talking to them, you can see the change in them,” he added.
Cornwell said he is still looking into making this project into a non-profit, but in the meantime, donations can be made through GoFundMe.