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Goodwill Manasota helps veteran in need to get a new car

SARASOTA, FL – For many in their sunset years, there is the promise of relaxation, the enjoyment of cultural amenities, and comfort. But for too many seniors – particularly veterans – aging can be fraught with anxiety as they try to live on fixed incomes in a world where the cost of living only goes up. For one area veteran, Goodwill Manasota and several veteran-serving partners have served as an ongoing resource for emergency needs.


Sarasota resident, 96-year-old World War II-era veteran Tom Halliwell, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. with three brothers. He earned his undergraduate and then Master’s degree in chemistry. He did some teaching and then went into the Army in 1946. When one of his brothers, who served in the 84th Infantry Division, was killed by German artillery, Halliwell was sent back close to home in New Jersey and completed his service in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. 


He moved down to Florida in 2001. Halliwell’s recent years were fairly comfortable, living in a relative’s home on Siesta Key. But when that relative passed away, the children decided to sell the house and, three years ago, Halliwell had to move.


Distressed, Halliwell stopped in at the Goodwill Manasota Veterans Services program office and met with program manager Todd Hughes, explaining his financial situation. Hughes set Halliwell up with prepared meals from Meals on Wheels Sarasota, connected him with a case manager at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, and arranged for the purchase of a Trac phone and a prepaid phone card from Goodwill’s SERV (Special Emergency Resources for Veterans) Fund. After a brief stay at Harvest House, the Veterans Administration got involved and Halliwell received a HUD voucher to cover his rent in a duplex in the Fruitville Road area of Sarasota.


Others got involved, too: Mattress Firm sold a mattress for Halliwell at cost, Goodwill provided furnishings, and Streets of Paradise contributed as well. Veterans living at Harvest House helped him to move in. 


“It is our duty to serve those who first served us,” said Hughes. “Through our Veterans Services Program, we are dedicated to providing whatever a veteran might need, whether it’s career services, opportunities to network with others who understand their challenges, housing, food, transportation, or emergency financial assistance. I am so happy that we have been able to find multiple solutions for Tom so that he can feel secure and enjoy his life.”


Last year, Goodwill was also able to get lifelong baseball fan Halliwell to his very first baseball game. Goodwill’s partners at The Dennis V. Cooper Foundation set him up with box seats and arranged for him to lead the stadium in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” as well as to take him onto the field before the game to meet the players and watch them practice. 


A couple of months after the game, Halliwell let the Veterans Services team know that his 40” television, which had been donated by community partner Operation Patriot Support, stopped working after a bad thunderstorm. Fortunately, another veteran had just donated a 60” smart TV to Goodwill the day before. Hughes went over to Halliwell’s home and installed it for him. While there, Hughes noticed that Halliwell’s early 1990s Hyundai – which was already in rough shape – had been damaged from an accident and was no longer safe to drive.


Hughes reached out to SRQ Vets to see what they could do; they connected with Phil Mockler, a Marine veteran involved with Operation Warrior Resolution, who knew of a vehicle needing a good home: a 2006 Chevy Cavalier with low mileage. The donation was approved and SRQ Vets donated the funds to fix up the car and transfer the title.


All involved arranged for Halliwell to meet them at the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 97, in Sarasota and surprised him with the car. Hughes reports that “He was like a 16-year-old getting his first car!”


“Tom has stopped by the office a few times to ask some questions about how certain things in the car work but I think he is just using it as another excuse to come hang out with us – and we certainly don’t mind!” Hughes said. “We are always happy to have him come by and chat with us. Tom is going to be a part of our Goodwill Manasota Veterans Services family for the rest of his life and we wouldn’t want it any other way.” 


Goodwill’s Veterans Services Program works to help eliminate barriers to employment, provide opportunities for higher-paying positions for veterans and their families, and connect veterans with needed resources and social services. Visit experiencegoodwill.org/veteransservices for more information.


About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.

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Media Contact : Sharon Kunkel

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