Mother helping daughter to honor Veterans

Naugatuck, CT


NAUGATUCK — A mother and daughter have teamed up help veterans.

Maple Hill Elementary School second-grader and Junior Ladies Auxillary member Rikki Harris, 7, is collecting clothing for homeless veterans with the help of her mother Mary Harris as part of the “I’m Listening, I Care” project.

“We don’t feel it’s right for any veteran to be homeless. They should have access to all the services that are offered to them,and they may not know about it or they might be ashamed to reach out to somebody to get that information,” Mary Harris said.

Mary Harris, who is a U.S. Army veteran, said she originally applied for a $250 grant through Disney’s Friends for Change program. Even though she did not get the grant, she decided to move forward with the project anyway for veterans and to foster a passion for helping veterans in her daughter.

Rikki Harris said she wants veterans to know that somebody cares about them.

“I’m worried about the veterans,” Rikki Harris said.

The mother-daughter tandem started the project in February. So far, so good.

“It’s going great. I’ve gotten donations from my supervisor, who has donated boxes upon boxes of boots,” said Mary Harris, a senior security specialist at ESPN, and the Post Adjutant from Post 17 in Naugatuck, CT.

She said her supervisor is also planning on donating a lot of blue cargo pants, which is part of her work uniform.

J&M Automotive, where Mary Harris’ husband works, and its employees have also donated bags of clothing.

“I have a feeling it’s going to run for the next year. From just the word of mouth that’s been out so far it has been a good response. People are willing to offer up help any way they can,” Mary Harris said.

The items will be donated to charities and veterans organizations around the state, such as the Vietnam Veterans of America, who have already made 2 pickups at her home.

Mary Harris said clothing such as brand new socks and underwear is what they need the most, but they will gladly take gently used household items, shoes, blankets and toiletries.

Since the items are being stored at the Harris household before being donated, they are currently unable to accept donations of larger items such as couches.

In addition to collecting donations, Mary and Rikki Harris are also trying to raise awareness about homelessness, suicide rates and post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans.

“There are at least 22 soldiers that commit suicide every day, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Mary Harris said.

They are planning to hand out informational flyers in the borough about the troubles returning veterans face, Mary Harris said.

“The reason why we chose veterans is that "these are soldiers who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check to The United Staes of America for an amount of up to and including their life." They don’t deserve to be homeless and they don’t deserve to die by their own had,” Mary Harris said. “The crisis is becoming so bad in the United States. They deserve respect.”

For Rikki Harris, the reason for helping veterans is very straightforward.

“Everybody should have a home,” Rikki Harris said.

Rikki Harris is no stranger to helping veterans. She has helped her mother replace flags at the St. James Cemetery on Cross Street, and has helped with various other activities held by the post Mary Harris said.

“She is involved. She is young,” Mary Harris said.

“But I can still do it,” Rikki Harris said.

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