It takes a village
Wed, 11/09/2022 - 3:59pm admin
Sue Neitzel, featured writer
The simple act of caring is all they long for. Every human deserves that, yet some who served our county in its highest form are homeless and alone. For Toni Wineinger of West Plains, the need to do something for the veterans was a lifelong dream but she couldn't do it by herself. As fate would have it, she met Kevin Falkner, owner of The Battery Station in West Plains. Like most fate-based meetings, the pair joined forces, and two years later, Salutes Thrift Store is the only homeless shelter for veterans in the area.
The public side of the building is the thrift store that supports the shelter, overlooked by Kevin's son, James. Falkner is now CEO and chairman of Salutes and has brought his own business to the property so he can work both places. Toni Wineinger is retired now but will always be noted and respected as the founder.
I met with Kevin recently, and Toni's dream is in good hands. I was impressed with the space, the building which was built in the mid-'70s and first housed a chicken plant, later bought by Tyson Foods. Over the years many businesses rented the building, but most would know it as the old Air Evac building. After my tour, it's clear it was meant for Salutes to house the homeless and to help them get back on their feet.
Kevin was on board from the start. With a heart to help others, he loved this cause and got busy reaching out. The business of helping veterans was challenging, but Kevin's faith got the work done. The result is a nonprofit organization that can house up to 20 lost souls.
While the veterans will always be their first priority, the extra space was going to waste. Seeing the need, Kevin partnered with a few organizations in town who had clients with nowhere else to go after ending their program. They needed a second chance too.
Everyone who stays at the shelter is treated like family, each expected to pitch in one way or another. There are rules to be followed, a curfew, and cameras everywhere. The private rooms are reserved for the veterans, while others sleep in a bunkhouse environment. Both men and women are welcome with the ratio on this day at women 6, men 8. Each person is given six months to better themselves by getting a job, a house, going back to school, etc… with Kevin aiding them all the way. “
Salutes operates on donations of all kinds, with labor being the most needed. Anyone who wants to give, should consider giving time to help out.
Kevin is working on adding a recreation room for the folks, a computer lab so they can apply for work, and a better laundry room. Every need is met or close to it here, and with help from outside agencies, no one gets lost in the system.
Everyone feels safe and valued. While 40% of the walk-ins can't pay, most do contribute money that goes towards groceries, electric bills, or other needs. Outside donations help to keep the doors open too. Kevin and his small crew are providing a positive environment for those who had lost hope. Here they can take charge of their life again and move on.
In Kevin's words, "I make no issue of believing that God has been in this since day one. We are supposed to be here and do our best to bless others as the Lord has blessed us.”
Let us all make a difference in this cause and honor the heroes who were brave enough to fight. Thank a veteran, and thank their village too!