More than 800 veterans are homeless on any given night in Michigan, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Development statistics. Angie Laesser, a 13-year Wallside Windows employee who works in accounting, tries to do what she can to improve their lives - and brighten their holidays.
This commitment to service started when she was a young girl when her mother took her to volunteer for COTS (Coalition on Temporary Shelter). They would go down to Detroit to feed the homeless and help with their Christmas party. Her “heart ached for the homeless,” she said.
Just seeing the children’s joy upon receiving a gift, a new baby doll or toy truck, put things in perspective for her. Since then she has dedicated herself to giving back. She has enlisted the help of her fellow Wallside Windows family such as Callie Harpe who has volunteered with her at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries and Genesis II house for women.
Laesser recently put together 120 gift bags for homeless veterans who live at Emmanuel House, a rehabilitation and recovery center in St. Mary’s Church of Detroit. The organization focuses on helping homeless veterans overcome substance abuse and get back on their feet.
Each bag consisted of a new pillow, pillowcase, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, other miscellaneous hygiene products and a goody bag of candy and hot cocoa.
Her volunteer work matters. It varies by war or service era, but according to statistics, between 11 and 20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have experienced PTSD in any given year. About 12 percent of Gulf War veterans do; and 15 percent of Vietnam War vets were diagnosed with PTSD in the late 1980s, and about 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetimes.
Laesser took action to help after hearing from a friend who works for the American Red Cross. “She told me that she went to their Christmas party the previous year and the vets were all in a raffle for a new pillow. Someone had donated a few pillows to the program and this was the most fair way to distribute them. It literally broke me down to know that 5 out of a 100 guys would have a fresh new pillow to rest their head on that night.
“Everyone deserves that, especially the men and women who signed up for a job that they may or may not return home from.”
That inspired her to start a pillow drive at Wallside Windows. The company selected Emmanuel House as its charity of choice and donated $1,000 to the organization.
While she is not a veteran herself, her father, grandfather, uncles and friends have all served in the military. “They are true heroes in my eyes,” she said.
Around Wallside and the community, Laesser is a hero herself. A few years ago she was diagnosed with MS and it led her to start participating in awareness walks for MS as well as autism and suicide awareness. And she wasn’t alone: Last April, 15 members of her Wallside family joined in on a 5K Walk/Run with her. “It was so much fun and great that the company got involved.”
Wallside Windows truly appreciates the sacrifice veterans have made to protect and serve our country.
Learn more about the Wallside Windows family by visiting our website.